Monday, December 3, 2007

Mushroom Quinoa with a side of Roasted Endive

There was a point when we first discovered quinoa that we were sending dinner guests home with a jar full of it. We've backed off (hey, do you think we're made of quinoa?), but we still love it just as much. For the quinoa virgins among you, it's amazing stuff: complete protein and more calcium than milk, packed into fluffy, quick-cooking morsels. It's gluten-free and, when that time of year rolls around, kosher for Passover!

One thing to keep in mind when you first start experimenting with quinoa is that has a bitter coating, so you should always rinse it well in a mesh strainer before you cook it. If you can find red quinoa, a mixture of red and white turns out beautifully. This mushroom quinoa recipe came from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, one of my favorite cookbooks of all time--we've used more scallions and mushrooms than the original.

Last night when we made this recipe, we also found ourselves with half a head of Belgian endive, leftover from making the celery endive slaw from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living (and if you don't subscribe, don't judge). We both found raw endive too bitter, reminiscent of our one disastrous run-in with bitter melon, and Madhur Jaffrey came to the rescue AGAIN with the brilliant idea to give endive our the standard household vegetable treatment: douse in fat, roast in oven, sprinkle with salt. We've scaled down her recipe to use just half an endive. The white part took on a bok-choy-like juicy sweetness, and the purple leaves really diminished in bitterness (I liked them, but Phoebe still found them too strong). We rounded out the meal with some roasted brussels sprouts.

For the Quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspooon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
6 shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 inch ginger, finely minced
2 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
1 cup white quinoa, or a mixture of red and white
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt to taste (you probably won't need it if you use stock)

To start, rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer and let it drain while you do everything else.

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds, and when they begin to pop, throw in the diced mushrooms and ginger. Stir for one minute, add scallions, stir twice and turn heat to medium-low. Add quinoa and stir to coat with everything else, then pour in stock. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly, lower heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

For the Roasted Endive

Half a Belgian endive
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter (or more olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 350. Trim the very bottom of the endive head, making sure to leave enough to hold the leaves together.

Warm the oil in a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the halved endive, face-down, and cook 2-3 minutes, until browned, then flip and brown the other side. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dot with the butter and cover with a tight-fitting lid or some aluminum foil. Transfer the skillet to your preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until tender.


Sarah said...

I had bitter melon once. My roommate brought it home. I was very determined to prove to her how open-minded I was about weird food that I ate quite a bit of it. It was disgusting! (And that's a level of dislike I extend to few foods!)

I Heart Kale said...

I'm so gratified to hear that, Sarah! Actually, last night I suggested to Phoebe that we try roasting bitter melon, since that seems to be a cure-all for vegetables everyone hates...

Phoebe said...

And I said "no" because it is BIT-TER!

Kasha H said...

So true about bitter melon. It's a traditional okinawan food (and my grandmother's side is okinawan). While I was living with my grandparents a few years ago I read an article in the Honolulu Advertiser that said bitter melon is supposed to have some miraculous health-improving qualities, including promoting longevity - so I've been theoretically determined to start eating it. But really, it's called Bitter Melon. Come on.

Angela P said...

You can decrease the bitterness of the bitter melon if you soak it in either water or milk for an hour or so, and then squeeze out the liquid. Then saute w/ onions/tomatoes, and (if you like, shrimp) and scrambled eggs. Still has a little bit of bitterness but tasty

I Heart Kale said...

Thanks, Angela--we'll have to give it another try with that method! Glad to hear someone has conquered bitter melon.