Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Given how much I bake it’s probably no secret that I have a major sweet tooth. I make no apologies for enjoying a little something for dessert most days – everything in moderation :) And the truth is, no matter how many days in a row I’ve eaten cookies, cupcakes, candy, or whatever else, I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to go on some healthy detox plan afterward.

While I may not be able to overdose on sweets, it turns out the same can’t be said for french fries. You may have seen me post about our first experience with poutine last week. We tried it, we loved it, and we could not stay away! The phrase “when in Canada” was uttered numerous times, and by the time we left, I desperately needed to hit the reset button on my diet.

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

I’ve been struggling to get onboard the quinoa bandwagon for a while now, but it hasn’t stopped me from continuing to try. I’ve made many recipes, and while a lot of them were edible, few were worthy of a repeat. And then, in an attempt to get something healthy into my body, I cooked this dish for lunch yesterday, and everything changed. I never thought I’d say this about anything made with quinoa, but it’s totally crave-worthy!

The quinoa is toasted in a saucepan with shallots and red pepper flakes, then cooked in chicken broth. When it’s done, roasted garlic, tomatoes and baby spinach leaves are stirred in along with Parmesan cheese. The residual heat wilts the spinach, melts the cheese and softens the tomatoes. And the roasted garlic is heavenly – the flavor, the aroma – it really makes the dish. The quinoa was terrific for lunch but would also be a great side dish at dinner. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d probably even eat it for breakfast with a fried egg on top. Yum!

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes and Spinach
from Cooking Light, August 2010

1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon dry white wine (I used vermouth)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
1 small tomato, chopped and seeded
1 tablespoon shaved fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove the papery outer skin from the head of garlic. Use a sharp knife to cut the head in half crosswise (to expose the middle of the cloves). Wrap one half of the head of garlic in aluminum foil (you could also roast the second half of the head now, or save it for another time). Roast for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Unwrap the garlic and squeeze the pulp from each clove then discard the skins.

Add the oil to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the shallots and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook for 2 minutes to toast it, stirring occasionally. Stir in the wine and cook until it has been absorbed. Mix in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low to simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed by the quinoa. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the garlic pulp, spinach leaves, tomatoes, cheese and salt. Serve warm, topped with additional cheese if desired. (I tried this at room temperature too, but I liked it better warm.)