Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Italian Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa

Italian Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa

Well, hello again.  I am slowly getting back into the groove.  This week's post is inspired by the eggplant I bought at my local Jewel.  He came with a nose! (and then I gave him sticker eyes and peeled the skin to make a mouth)  How cute is he?  Have you ever grown an eggplant with a little offshoot like this? What causes that?

eggplant man

This recipe is a little bit different than what I usually make, and I liked that. It's rare I make an Italian dish without pasta (seems necessary) but there is no reason not to use quinoa in Italian cooking. It even adds a bit of nuttiness and crunch that pasta lacks. I realize I've been pushing the qunioa lately, but how can you not love it? It's so healthy and tastes great.

Italian Chicken and Vegetables

Also, since the Monkey Scientist and I moved in with one of my best friends, I've started to make dinners for three.  It's caused me to reevaluate my portion sizes when I'm cooking quite a bit from cooking for just the two of us. Two boys eat a LOT! I doubled the original recipe and we had leftovers, but that's OK with me. At least then I don't have to think too much about lunch in the morning!

Italian Vegetable and Chicken Quinoa

The other part of cooking for two boys is that I'm totally outnumbered when I try to make vegetarian meals. "Vegetarian meal" means side dish to these Midwestern boys.  I don't even have my vegepescatarian camp friend to come over and use as an excuse to leave the meat out, since I sadly left her behind in DC (someone make her move to Chicago, please!).  So while I added chicken to this dish, you could definitely substitute it with another can of beans for a Meatless Monday or otherwise vegetarian meal.

Italian Vegetable and Chicken Quinoa

This meal was a big hit with everyone. It wasn't the simplest or easiest meal to make (it helped to have 2-3 people in the kitchen) but the dish layered really well. It reminded the Monkey Scientist of Ratatouille - one of our favorites.  The flavors were bold and recognizably Italian, but I didn't miss the pasta at all.  We kicked the spice up a lot, since the 3 of us are not sensitive to spice at all these days, but if you can't handle much spice you can use just a dash of cayenne.  I think this is a great way to use up your gardens at the end of the summer!

Italian Vegetables and Chicken Quinoa

Italian Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa
adapted from the Shiksa

1 lb. eggplant, cubed, skin on
1/2-1 lb chicken breast tenders (raw, not the fried kind), cubed
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2-2 cups quinoa (I used a mix of red and white)
1 lb. zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper (more if, like us, you can handle it)
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil, divided
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan

1. Place the cubed eggplant in a colander and sprinkle all of the pieces with salt. Let the eggplant sit for about 20 minutes (I totally didn't wait this long and it was fine) till beads of water form on the surface of the eggplant. When beads of water have risen on the eggplant, rinse the eggplant thoroughly and drain to get rid of the excess salt.
2. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion to the skillet and saute for a few minutes until softened. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes longer until aromatic.
3. Add the cubed eggplant, crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of water to the skillet. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet with a lid and reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the eggplant cook for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a mesh strainer or sieve, drain.
5. Bring 3-4 cups water (2:1 ratio with the amount of quinoa) to a boil in a saucepan. Pour the quinoa into the boiling water, bring back to a boil. (I used my rice cooker but my quinoa came out mushy, so I recommend doing it on the stove.) Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for about 20 minutes until it becomes tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Keep a close eye to make sure the quinoa doesn't dry out or burn.
6. In a small skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet and cook until just cooked through and you can't see any pink. It's ok if it's a little under-cooked, since it will cook more later.
7. After the eggplant has cooked for 15 minutes, uncover the skillet and add the sliced zucchini, beans, chicken, oregano, cayenne pepper, and 3 tbsp of fresh chopped basil. Stir, bring back to a low simmer, then recover the skillet. Let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes longer till the zucchini is tender.
8. When the quinoa is done cooking, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in remaining 2 tbsp of fresh chopped basil and the fresh lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
9. When the vegetable and chicken mixture is done cooking, remove from heat. There may be a lot of liquid in the pan. The vegetable mixture should be saucy but not overly liquid. If it seems watery, simmer it for a few minutes on medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve the vegetable and chicken mixture in bowls over the quinoa. Top with Parmesan cheese to serve.

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