Summer Vegetable Quinoa

Among the many things I love about taking part in a CSA is how there are times when the week’s share of vegetables just call out to me that they want to play together in a meal since they’re just so darn pretty together. That’s what happened when I saw these:

Bright orange beets and soft yellow carrots– it called to mind late summer evening sunsets. Something made with these vegetables was sure to pass John’s “eyeball test.” I also thought these two would want to naturally go together since their flavors are brought out through roasting in the oven. Both vegetables are sweet, but no problem– I’d counterbalance the sweetness and add to the color on the plate with some bright green snap peas. I basically envisioned slices of roasted beets and carrots tossed in butter with snap peas and lots of fresh herbs, then I’d dot the vegetable mix with bits of creamy, tangy goat cheese and some crunch from roasted pistachios. Summer, farm fresh, seasonal eating at its finest!

The only problem? The oven didn’t want any part of this summery fiesta. Slowly dying for the last few months, the oven wouldn’t heat above 160 degrees F, sometimes taking up to an hour to even get that high. I gave up on the idea of roasting the carrots, but still tried to roast the beets since steamed beets just aren’t appealing to me. After waiting the requisite hour hoping that the oven would decide to sporadically correct itself, John got the brilliant idea to throw the beets in the toaster oven. Sadly, this still took longer than roasting in the oven. What should have only taken 40 minutes to throw together this meal turned into a two and a half hour ordeal.

No worries. That gave me plenty of time to make a vegetable stock for cooking quinoa to go with my summer vegetable medley. When I started cooking the beets and carrots, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to serve them with, but John, having bought a large box of quinoa in order to meet the $30 minimum for our grocery delivery service, seemed to have settled that question for me. I thought that the quinoa would be nice and nutty for the vegetables, and since it’s high in protein, it seemed to be a natural fit for my healthful mix of vegetables.

Despite the oven snafu, this was a meal that came together with minimal effort. I cooked the quinoa in the rice cooker so I didn’t have to worry about it as it sat on a stove. The onion, garlic, carrots and snap peas sautéed in a little bit of butter in less than 15 minutes. The beets did their roasting business in the (toaster) oven without any fussing from me. We may have ended up eating this meal while watching the sunset whose colors were mirrored on our plates, but can you really complain about that?

Note: Since I’m not as experienced of a quinoa chef as John is, I didn’t think of toasting the quinoa until he suggested it while we were eating. To toast quinoa, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the quinoa and gently stir until the grains are lightly coated in oil then stir occasionally for 4-5 minutes or until grains are lightly browned before cooking in a rice cooker or on the stove according to package directions. You can use store-bought vegetable stock instead of homemade. Lastly, to try roasting the carrots alongside the beets, simply toss carrot pieces in some olive oil, salt and pepper then spread out on a baking sheet and cook in oven alongside foil-wrapped beets. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender.

  • 1 bunch of medium-sized orange beets, stems and green tops removed and reserved for another purpose
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin half-moon pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch yellow carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup roasted pistachios, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh dill and basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash off any dirt on beets and pat dry with paper towel. Split the beets in half, lengthwise. Cutting a piece of aluminum foil about 15 inches long, fold the foil in half and line the beets up on the foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place thyme sprigs on top of beets. Seal the beets tightly, making a foil packet and roast in oven for 35-40 minutes or until beets are tender. Carefully unwrap foil packet and let beets cool to touch before peeling off skins and slicing the beets into 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside.

Cook quinoa in vegetable stock either in rice cooker or on stove top according to package directions. While quinoa cooks, melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to saute until carrots soften slightly, another 5-7 minutes. Stir in the snap peas and beet slices, cooking until peas turn bright green and beets are heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 3/4 of the fresh dill and basil then turn off heat.

Fluff up the quinoa with a fork then plate, topping with vegetable mixture. Dot with pieces of goat cheese and a sprinkle of pistachios and remaining herbs before serving.

CSA Count: 5

Beets, yellow carrots, snap peas, dill, basil

Garden Count: 1

Thyme

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