Friday, February 26, 2010

Quinoa with Charred Vegetables and Queso Fresco

Some days the sun just seems to shine brighter-you know, the days where everything seems to go your way, you fit into your skinny jeans and your heart seems to swell with happiness. Last Saturday was one of those days for me. I was in the midst of a 3 exam, 2 paper and 1 presentation week at nursing school, but I got up early, cleaned my room, went for a massage and saw Shutter Island with Carlos (highly recommend this film!!) and cooked dinner.

I decided to make quinoa with charred zucchini, bell peppers, queso fresco and a smoky-spicy tomato sauce. I couldn't have been more pleased with the results-healthy, refreshing and simple to prepare.

To Make:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian dish!)
1 quart whole milk
2 limes
3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow)
2 small zucchini
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with diced chiles
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 small diced tomatillo
4 cloves minced garlic
1 small diced onion
4 tablespoons olive oil

Heat up milk in heavy sauce pan over medium heat until steaming, but not quite simmering. Add juice of 1 lime and stir as milk curdles. Turn heat to low and let cook additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt and let sit 20 minutes.

As milk is cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, tomatillos and garlic and turn to medium. Stir constantly until you are sure that the garlic is not browning (if it is, remove from heat and let cool for a minute). Cook about 5 minutes until onions become translucent.

Add spices and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir into tomatoes/chiles into mixture and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour milk over a cheesecloth-lined colander. If you do not cheesecloth, a very fine strainer will do. Once liquid has mostly drained, form curds into a ball and twist cheesecloth over the ball so that the pressure from twisting causes excess liquid to drain. Hang over sink or a bowl for 2 hours so that cheese may dry out.

Slice bell peppers and zucchini lengthwise into small strips.

Heat up remaining olive oil in a cast-iron grilling pan over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and zucchini (you will probably need to do this in 2-3 batches) and cook until lightly charred, adding extra olive oil if necessary. Remove from heat.

Heat up quinoa and broth over high heat. When it begins to simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook 20 minutes, stirring a few times to fluff quinoa.

Serve quinoa with vegetables, cheese and spicy tomato sauce to taste.


  1. Yum!That looks really good. I love it that you made your own cheese. Have you tried using it as a topping for pizza? Its really good

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  3. Hi Alisa! I actually have not put it on pizza yet. My mother is an avid baker and turns out ciabatta almost daily and makes her own pizza area where I am very much a novice! HOWEVER, if you or anyone has access to "00" Italian pasta/pastry/bread flour, it makes an amazing dough for a crispy thin-crust pizza!


Tried my recipe? Please let me know how it turned out for you! Be honest (and kind!)