Quinoa wasn’t supposed to be on the menu last night. This recipe was a bit of an accident. A delicious, happy accident.
I had my heart set on cucumber mint ice cream.
This is all because I have this massive amount of cucumbers to use. I lost my cukes to slugs (again and again and again), but my brother’s plants are amazing. Overgrown and healthy and loaded with cucumbers. I’ve never seen more productive plants. This is only my brother’s second summer gardening, by the way. So, if you’ve never sown a seed before, take this as encouragement. Yes, you too can be a cucumber-whisperer. As long as your garden doesn’t harbor a population of slugs that rivals the human population density of Manhattan, that is…
So, yes, my brother is keeping me well-supplied in cucumbers until I’m able to coax some seedlings past this slug-delicacy stage.
And, by “well-supplied,” I mean overwhelmed with cucumbers. Eating cucumbers with every meal and still having too many. Needing to find new ways to use cucumbers.
Thus, the idea for cucumber ice cream.
No, I’ve never made it before. I have no idea how it will taste. But, I’m curious. Aren’t you? I’ve scoured the interwebs, found a few recipes to play with, and have scads of cukes, delicious rich whole milk and plenty of mint. Awesome. Let’s make some ice cream.
Um. Except. One thing.
The ice cream maker wasn’t frozen.
So, now, I’ve got the ice cream maker in the freezer. It takes a while to freeze. So, tomorrow. I’ll make the ice cream tomorrow.
Last night, instead, I made quinoa. And, let me tell you: Yum.
This is one of those delightfully adaptable recipes. I used tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and sweet onion because that’s what was in the garden and in the freezer. You could use those veggies, or add and subtract based on your own garden / refrigerator / freezer / farmers’ market offerings. Summer squash would be damn good here, I bet. Also, crunchy carrots or sweet snap peas. Lots of ways to experiment.
But, tonight, we’re cooking with tomatoes and peppers (sweet and hot) and onions and cucumbers. And quinoa. Yum.
Summertime quinoa with tomato, cucumber and mozzarella
Makes dinner for 2, or side dishes for 4 (approximately)
1 sweet onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, deveined (or not) and diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 white wine
1 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4-1/2 cucumber, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup mozzarella, diced
Note: Want some kick to the dish? Leave some or all of the veins and seeds in the jalapeño pepper, and use the whole thing,. Feeling a little cautious about heat? Remove the veins and seeds from the jalapeño, and use 1/2 or so of the pepper. I used only 1/2 the pepper in this dish, and it was very mild. Next time, I’ll use the whole pepper.
Second note: I wanted a simple and fresh dish, so I cooked without any spices or herbs. But, next time, I’m going to try basil. Parsley would also be great, I suspect. If you have either in your garden, you may want to try tossing them in at the very end, when you add the tomatoes, cukes and mozzarella.
Ok. Let’s get cooking.
Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Sure, you can use extra virgin olive oil. I won’t stop you. But, I can’t guarantee I won’t judge you. And, margarine? No. Just, no. Please, please, no.
Once butter is melted, add onions. If you are cooking with fresh peppers, add them now too (both spicy and sweet). If you’re working with frozen peppers (my sweet peppers were frozen from last year), you’ll add them in a moment. Reduce heat to medium-high and sauté until onions and peppers just begin to show some brown. This is when you want to add your frozen peppers. Continue cooking for a few minutes, until those peppers start to brown too. They will cook fast.
At this point, you’ve probably got a coating of browned butter on the bottom of your pan. No worries. That stuff is tasty.
Once onions and peppers are cooked to your liking, add white wine to deglaze the pan. I used about 1/4 cup, but you can use more if you like. You’ll be cooking it off before adding the quinoa, so no worries about making the dish too liquidy and mushy.
Simmer until wine is just cooked off. You’ll want to see no liquid in the bottom of the pan. It’s ok if there’s moisture in the veggies though. That won’t hurt anything.
Add the quinoa, broth, water and soy sauce. Also, if you like, add salt to taste. Increase heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.
Once the quinoa mixture is boiling nicely, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10-20 minutes. Keep covered. Stir occasionally, just to be sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Simmer until all the water/broth is absorbed by the quinoa.
Serve the quinoa with fresh-cut tomatoes, cucumbers and mozzarella on top. I had only two small tomatoes on hand. Next time, I’ll add more. Perhaps as much as a whole (diced) slicer. We’ll see. The cucumber amount is also variable. I diced 1/4 of a cuke for atop the quinoa, and then ate the remaining 3/4 sliced, on the side. Next time, I’ll add more diced cuke to the quinoa medley. The crispness of the cucumber really pairs nicely with the texture of the quinoa and cooked onion and pepper.
And, that cheese? Go crazy. Add as much as you want.
This makes a quick and light summertime dinner on its own. Or, serve with grilled chicken or sausage for a more hearty meal. While this makes enough for two as a main course, it will probably serve four if served as a side dish.
Go ahead and experiment based on what you’ve got in your garden, kitchen or can find at your favorite farmers’ market. summer squash, added with the onions and peppers, would be fantastic. Sweet corn too – yum! Crispy carrots or peas, added with the wine or just before the quinoa, would add a delightful crunch. Cooked and shredded chicken, added with the quinoa, would turn this light dish into something heartier and more filling.
Also, you’ll notice that I used no spices or herbs. I wanted the tomatoes and cukes to take center stage, and really liked how it turned out. Next time, though, I think I’ll add some fresh-picked basil with the tomatoes and cukes.
As for the cheese, the mozzarella was delicious. But, next time, I’m trying feta. Maybe Again, go with what you have on hand.
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