Sunday, March 3, 2024
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Fast, flavourful fried quinoa

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Don’t get me wrong – I am not one of those nutritionists who thinks you need to substitute quinoa or cauliflower for grains in every dish. (Technically, quinoa is a seed). I have way more respect than that for food traditions and the nutritional value of grains in general, and whole grains in particular.

But I also relish the creative freedom to break rules, and I hate to waste food. So when I found myself with piles of leftover quinoa in my refrigerator and a couple of half-used bags of frozen vegetables, my mind went straight to one of the best and easiest ways I know to turn them into a crave-able meal: Cook them up like Chinese fried rice.

For me, the most fun thing about any stir-fry is how fast it comes together once you get cooking. Because everything happens lightning-fast, it’s key to have all the ingredients lined up and ready to go before you begin.

I start here with diced carrots and bell peppers, letting them soften a bit, then I added the frozen vegetables: edamame and corn. You could substitute pretty much any vegetable you have on hand – peas, green beans, broccoli, spinach, whatever. Then the magical flavour trio of scallion, ginger and garlic get stirred in to meet the briefly heat before the quinoa is added to warm through. As with fried rice, it is best if the quinoa is well-chilled to start, so it doesn’t get gummy, again proving the dish a prime use for leftovers.

For protein I like to go with scrambled egg, made in the same pan by forming a well in the centre of the mixture, adding a little oil and scrambling the egg in the well before incorporating its small curds with the rest of the ingredients. At this point you could add any other cooked protein instead or as well, such as leftover shrimp, or chopped cooked chicken.

Finished with a drizzle of soy sauce and fragrant toasted sesame oil, it’s a meal in a bowl that’s as practical and healthful as it is delicious.

Vegetable fried quinoa. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

This tasty meal in a bowl is a riff on Chinese fried rice, made with quinoa, a rainbow of colourful vegetables, plus edamame and egg for protein, all seasoned with garlic, scallion, ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. It’s a great way to use up leftover quinoa, and you can substitute just about any vegetable or cooked protein, such as shrimp or chicken, you might have on hand.

– Two tablespoons plus one teaspoon peanut, canola or grapeseed oil, divided
– One cup finely diced carrots
– One cup finely diced red bell pepper
– One cup frozen shelled edamame
– One cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
– Four scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
– Two tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
– Three cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
– Four cups cold cooked quinoa
– Two large eggs, lightly beaten
– Three tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce, plus more to taste
– Two teaspoons toasted sesame oil

In a large, deep nonstick skillet or wok over high heat, heat two tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the carrot and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften, two to three minutes. Add the edamame and corn and cook until just warmed through, about one minute. Add the scallion, ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until aromatic, 30 seconds. Then add the quinoa and cook, stirring, until heated through, two to three minutes.

Make a three-inch well in the centre of the quinoa mixture. Add the remaining one teaspoon of oil, then add the eggs and cook, stirring them in the well in the centre of the quinoa, until they are softly scrambled. Then stir the eggs into the rice mixture. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste, and season with additional soy sauce, if desired. Remove from the heat, divide among shallow bowls and serve.