Up until a couple years ago, quinoa was relatively unheard of. It certainly wasn’t something my family ate when I was growing up and I rarely ran across it on restaurant menus, cookbooks or online. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, quinoa seemed to explode onto the food scene. Suddenly, quinoa is everywhere. It’s actually been on a gradual rise in popularity over the past several years and now this trendy pseudograin has found a place with the cool kids, right next to cupcakes and macarons.
Despite it’s relatively new popularity, there’s actually nothing new about quinoa. On the contrary, it was once considered a sacred food source of the ancient Incas. And with good reason. Quinoa is high in protein and unique in the realm of vegetable proteins for its notable lysine content. Containing all eight essential amino acids, quinoa is considered to be a complete protein, which is especially attractive for people looking to get their protein from non-meat sources. It’s also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, gluten-free, wheat-free, and easily digestible. It’s truly a nutritional superfood.
A few years ago, after reading an article touting the awesomeness of quinoa, I ran to the store, bought myself a bag and prepared it with dried fruits and a bit of honey for breakfast. To be honest, I was less than thrilled with the result and hadn’t prepared it since; until yesterday, that is.
Inspired by the request of a friend, I decided to give it another try. This time, I went with a savory preparation, incorporating some of my favorite flavors; sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and goat cheese. I stuffed all of this delicious goodness into a baby eggplant and the result was phenomenal. Seriously delicious! Have it for lunch or make it as a side dish for dinner. You’ll be happy you did.
Now, be careful to pronounce it correctly when talking to your friends about your new favorite quinoa recipe. Though, by appearance and common convention, you may assume it’s pronounced Kin-O-ah, the correct pronunciation is actually KEEN-wah. It takes me a forced effort to remember this fact. My mind thinks Kin-O-ah, while I force my mouth to say KEEN-wah. In fact, if someone started talking to me about KEEN-wah, it would probably take me a good minute before I figured out what they were talking about. It goes against my natural instincts, but KEEN-wah it is.
2 baby eggplants
3/4 cup quinoa
1-1/2 cups vegetable stock
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place quinoa and vegetable stock in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer for 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Keep covered and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Use a knife to cut around the edges being careful not to cut through the skin. Leave about a 1/4 inch remaining around the edges. Use a spoon to scoop out the middle.
Chop the scooped eggplant into small pieces. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, parsley, salt, crushed red pepper, and about 2/3 of the goat cheese crumbles. (Reserve the remaining 1/3 of goat cheese crumbles for topping the stuffed eggplants.)
Once the quinoa is cooked, gently toss it with the eggplant mixture. Rub the outside of the eggplant skins with a small amount of olive oil, then place on a baking sheet. Generously stuff each skin with the quinoa mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese crumbles on top of each eggplant during the last 10 minutes of cooking.