Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kale and Quinoa Pilaf, a One-Pot Treat

February offers so many opportunities to overindulge: Super Bowl parties, Lunar New Year celebrations, over-the-top Mardi Gras feasts, and Valentine's Day sweets all conspire to make poor nutrition choices inevitable. Or is it just me? It's time to increase my healthy daily protein and vegetable intake. Time to choose dishes that are fresh, affordable, tasty and not overly complicated to prepare. Kale plus quinoa just made the rotation with this delicious pilaf recipe. Kale + Quinoa = delicious, really? Absolutely, I wouldn't fool you. So here's one more recipe utilizing these ubiquitous ingredients. 

Food blogs, pinterest pages and restaurant menus feature tons of kale and quinoa dishes; some tasty, others not so much. My Recipe Index holds several kale recipes and a few that incorporate quinoa. None called for a combination of the two. Are kale and quinoa over-hyped food fads or essential super foods? Maybe both, but nutritious plus tasty makes a great combination... as long as it isn't repeated too often with the same ingredients. RL might would definitely not be thrilled with a daily dose of kale. 

Kale can lower cholesterol, diminish the risk for several cancers, provides antioxidant and and-inflammatory benefits and offers a host of vitamins and nutrients. Surprising factoids: one cup of kale and more vitamin C than a medium orange, is a good source of omega-3 and protein, and has more calcium than an equivalent quantity of milk. Google "kale" for additional data, it's interesting reading.

Consumed for centuries by the Incas, quinoa has only become popular in our culture in this century. 
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as "The International Year of the Quinoa".
Quinoa is very high in protein and, unlike most grains, it is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids we need for good health. Like kale, it provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and a host of nutrients. Google "quinoa" for more information on this amazing gluten-free grain. Back to the recipe. 

Kale and Quinoa Pilaf is a quick and easy, one-pot wonder that takes less than 30 minutes to prep and cook. Its a terrific solution when you are pressed for time. Bonus! it doubles easily and holds well in the refrigerator. Enjoy the pilaf warm as an entree or side dish, or chill it to serve later as a room temperature salad. Add slivers of cooked chicken for the meat-lovers and it is a filling meal. 

Even the leftovers are versatile components to other dishes.This morning I added a cup of leftover pilaf (minus the grapes) to a frittata. Or use the pilaf to stuff peppers, chiles or tomatoes and roast in the oven. Or...  Don't ignore kale and quinoa; this is a protein-packed duo.

One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

adapted from a recipe on Food52

Serves 2-4

cups lightly salted water
cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
bunch curly kale, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
large lemon, zested and juiced (about 4-oz juice)
fat scallions, green and white parts, minced
tablespoon walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
tablespoons toasted pine nuts (I used pepitas)
fresh parsley, minced
cup crumbled feta cheese
red grapes, halved (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa and cover. Lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Top with the kale, cover and, without stirring, simmer another 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, make the sauce. In a large serving bowl combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, oil, pine nuts, parsley, grapes (if using) and cheese.

Check the pot 5 minutes after you add the kale; the water should be absorbed, the quinoa barely tender. If the quinoa still retains a hard white center, steam a while longer, adding more water as needed. When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf and add to the serving bowl holding the sauce,. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding the remaining lemon juice if needed. 

Below are some other quinoa or kale recipes on this blog:


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Tandy, it has become an instant favorite in my kitchen lately.

  2. Delicious. I've had a quinoa dish on my mind all week. I love one pot wonders.

    1. One-pot cooking is appreciated for easy cleanup AND for putting more time back into the day for fun things like knitting and photo walks.


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