I ate peppers, I ate celery, I ate arugula…
I made this dish one night after a day of ranting to myself that A) how the hell am I supposed to get the recommended 9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables and B) what can I do to make celery actually taste *good*? My immediate answer to B was “don’t eat it alone,” but A took an experiment in the kitchen to concoct a reasonable solution to.
My boyfriend has heard me chant “wine and cheese and bread!” often to answer the “what do you want for dinner” question (which is what I’m consuming as I write this). So I–this lady who’s completely content with her carbs and coagulated cow milk–need a little kick to get in those vegetables. I like experimenting with using quinoa as a cold salad base, mimicking pasta salads, so I just went to the store and started grabbing things that would bring a lot of color to the dish.
I’ve been digging on red bell peppers a lot lately–dipping them in hummus, eating them fresh, putting them in whatever dish I can–so that was one of the first things I grabbed. I had carrots at home, and celery was the challenge vegetable. But what else? Edamame (soy beans) was something I put in other cold quinoa salads and, liking how they turned out, I threw the frozen shelled beans in my basket when I finally found them. (The First Avenue Hy-Vee stores them with the frozen health foods rather than with the frozen vegetables.)
My other goal was to use the rest of the arugula and spinach I had gotten that had been ready to eat for a few days now. And I had a tomato and a little bit of broccoli left at home so those made the cut, as well. The night I made this dish, I actually wound up with fewer about-to-rot vegetables in my crisper.
And how did this all fit together? Well here it is (drum rolllll)…what I call the Crazy Eights!
Step by Step
Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it in cold water (generally instructions tell you to rinse until the water runs clear, but I just rinse three times and call it good). Don’t worry about pre-boiling the water, the quinoa can come to a boil as the water does. Bring the water to a boil for a minute, stirring it like rice, then reduce the heat a little and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until you get the consistency you want. When it’s done, let the quinoa cool completely.
While that’s on the stove, dice your red bell pepper and carrots, and chop your celery. I mixed those together in a bowl and set it aside. These uncooked ingredients provide a much-welcome crispy chomp into each bite of the finished dish.
Steam the frozen edamame, kale, and broccoli. You have to keep an eye on the steaming process, as they might take different times depending on your cut. For the broccoli, I cut the heads so they were about an inch to two inches in diameter and diced the stalks (after removing their skin, which hurts my stomach if I eat it, raw or cooked). The broccoli and kale will take about 5 minutes to steam, while the edamame should take about 7 minutes. Look for the color to become its most vibrant and saturated–that’s how you know it’s done. The kale will turn a green that resembles dog-shit-fertilized grass–that looks greener than it was the summer and fall before the long, snow-covered and frigid, dog-walk-less winter (you dog owners know what I mean). The broccoli’s color will just pop to your senses. Ideally, the vegetables will be removed from the steam just before they’re done as they’ll continue cooking with the heat they’ve retained, but that takes time to master.
Once the steamed veggies have cooled, mix the edamame in with the pepper-carrot mix, and toss the kale (or arugula if that’s the preferred leaf) with the washed spinach. The latter will be the base for the meal.
The former is going to get mixed in with the cooled-down quinoa. Take the bowl of mixed together veggies and start folding that into the quinoa. If your quinoa is still a little waterlogged, the veggies will help bust it up a bit. Make sure they’re all nicely distributed, then add your minced garlic and dried herbs. Using fresh herbs is fine, too, if you’re one of the lucky ones who just has those hangin’ around. Now’s the time to salt-and-pepper that bitch, too.
When all that’s mixed together nicely, spread the tossed kale/arugula and spinach combo onto the plates and take a 1/2- or 1-cup measuring cup to scoop the quinoa salad onto the bed of greens. Garnish with your steamed broccoli heads and quartered tomatoes FTW.
Okay, so with this dish, the drawback is that you can’t go out for a night of heavy binge-drinking unless you grab a slice of pizza on your way home. But it does knock the ball out of the proverbial park when it comes to nutrients and variety. The crispy red pepper, celery and carrots add a crunch that gives molars a reason to go on living, and the moisture from the greens and cooked quinoa provide a surprisingly quenching backdrop to the potentially boring vegetables now dancing on your plate.