I’m currently working three different jobs right now (two of them food-related), which along with other things, makes for a rather busy and energy-draining schedule. This brilliant dish, slightly adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, is something I’ve come to depend on for a much needed healthy meal, and it holds its own beautifully whether you’re eating it freshly made or re-heating it for lunch the next day.
I think it gets even better as it sits, even deeper in flavor, and it’s quite adaptable to other ingredients if you don’t have exactly what’s on the list below. I’ve used chopped roasted brussel sprouts instead of the sweet potato, and then replaced some of the olive oil with a toasted sesame oil and mixed it with a rice wine vinegar. Different grain substitutions would work as well, such as a cooked wild rice mix, with maybe some cooked green lentils, chopped grape tomatoes, scallions and artichoke hearts mixed in. Substitute a white wine vinegar with the olive oil for the dressing, serve the mixture over some tender mixed baby greens, and you’ve got another stellar variation on the theme. If you find yourself on the go and needing the right kind of nourishment to keep up, this dish meets both those requirements very well. But healthy isn’t the only thing going on here. As some folks like to say, this dish is flavor city.
Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables & Wine-Glazed Chicken
For the chicken:
2 uncooked chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil for drizzling
Dry red or white wine
For the quinoa:
1 cup raw quinoa (I used tri-color here, but white works well, too)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the roasted vegetables:
3 red bell peppers, stems removed, cut in half, inner veins and seeds removed
1 large sweet potato (around 1 pound), cut into roughly 1/2-inch square pieces
One full head of garlic, left in one piece, but with the papery outer skin removed
For the final assembly:
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons fresh garlic chives, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Place the chicken breasts on a designated cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound with a meat tenderizer so the meat becomes thinner and slightly larger. Remove the plastic wrap and place the chicken in a shallow flat glass container, sprinkle both sides of each breast liberally with sea salt, and drizzle with the fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Cover and let marinate in a refrigerator until ready to cook.
Prep the red bell peppers and place the halves on a large baking sheet. (This makes more than you’ll need for the recipe, but roasting several red bell peppers this way is more efficient). Turn the oven broiler on high, place baking sheet about eight to ten inches from the heat (generally on the second-highest rack from the top), and roast until the skins are well-blackened. Remove and tent with aluminum foil for several minutes until cool to loosen blackened skins.
Remove skins by lightly rubbing and peeling them off with your fingers. Discard skins. Dice one whole (two roasted halves) of roasted red bell pepper. Place the remaining roasted bell peppers in a glass storage container with a little bit of olive oil drizzled over them. Refrigerate for future use.
Rinse the raw quinoa well in a fine strainer to remove any of the bitter coating. Drain. To cook the quinoa, place it in a medium saucepan with two cups of water, the butter, and the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the water, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove from the heat.
Once the quinoa is cooked, let it cool for a few minutes, and then dump it on a separate large baking sheet, spreading it out evenly over the entire sheet. I do this to let some of the moisture evaporate so the quinoa doesn’t become soggy when mixed with all the other ingredients. Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, fluff it up using a fork before placing it into a larger bowl for mixing in the other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the sweet potato into 1/2-inch pieces, place in a bowl, drizzle with about a tablespoon a of olive oil, and sprinkle with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dump the sweet potato on a large baking sheet and spread the pieces out over the sheet. Prep the garlic as directed by removing all the loose papery skin, leaving the head in one piece, and trim the very tip of the cloves off with a sharp knife. Place the head of garlic, stem side down, on a piece of aluminum foil that is big enough to completely wrap around the head of garlic. Create a cup shape underneath the garlic with the foil, and drizzle the garlic with a little olive oil. Fold the sides of the foil upwards and pinch together to seal. Place the foil package in the middle of the same baking sheet with the sweet potato pieces. Place in the oven on the middle rack and roast for thirty minutes until the potato is tender and slightly caramelized.
While the sweet potato and garlic are roasting, mince the onion and the chives. After thirty minutes, remove the sweet potatoes and garlic from the oven. Carefully remove the foil package with the garlic inside from the baking sheet and place back in the oven for an additional five minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
Once the garlic has cooled slightly, remove the foil. Let sit a little longer until cool enough to handle, then gently remove the cloves from their skins by squeezing from the bottom. Some of the outside cloves may be a little softer then the inside ones, which should be softened but whole. Chop the roasted garlic into smaller pieces as well as you can manage; the cloves will be very soft and mushy.
Whisk the 1/4 cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar together in a small container until emulsified.
Scoop the fluffed quinoa into a large bowl. Stir in the roasted sweet potato, red onion, diced roasted red bell pepper and chives. Place the chopped roasted garlic on top, pour the olive oil/sherry vinegar mixture over, and fold into the quinoa.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and sauté the chicken on both sides until it is no longer pink and gives very slightly when pressed. Remove to a separate plate. With the skillet still hot, add about a 1/4 cup of wine to deglaze the pan, and reduce until slightly thickened. Pour sauce over the chicken. Let chicken rest for several minutes, then slice diagonally into thick strips.
Divide quinoa among four plates. Divide sliced chicken breasts evenly among each plate, placed on top. Garnish with extra minced chives if desired.
Makes 4 servings