I am in love with quinoa. Seriously. I love how it "pops" when it cooks. I could easily eat a bowl of quinoa just seasoned with a bit of salt.
My husband doesn't share my emotions. He can handle eating it, but is never thrilled by it. He endures it. That all changed with this dish. Maybe it was the fact I hadn't cooked for him in over a week (he worked late....I was out of town....), but he loved it. Maybe it was due to the fact it was a hot day and he had biked home (yes, a hot day in October--very common here in Austin). Regardless the reason, I was thrilled to find a quinoa recipe he loved.
We're not going to talk about the kids. I need to serve quinoa a dozen or so more times before they'll agree to eat it. It took them forever to start eating brown rice. Patience is required with my three (in so, so many things). They ate the grilled chicken eagerly and then Madeleine made them an alternate meal (so much easier to handle them not eating my cooking when I don't have to make the alternate).
I'll make this again, especially in the middle of winter when we are inundated with carrots. This could easily be made vegetarian by just serving the salad without the chicken (which is how I am eating it for lunch today!).
Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken
adapted just a little bit from Food and Wine
1 c quinoa (red, black or regular--I use regular because it's $3 a pound cheaper)
2 c water
1/4 c pine nuts
3 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into half moons (quarter lengthwise if they are fat)
2 t ground cumin
1 T balsamic vinegar (or 1 T plus 1 t sherry vinegar)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
2 T mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Put the quinoa in small saucepan and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a large skillet over moderate heat until fragrant. Watch carefully and stir often to prevent burning. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and the garlic and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cumin, cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the carrots are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes (you want them to still have a little crunch---not much, just not mushy carrots). Stir in the quinoa and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the carrots are cooking, drizzle the chicken with olive oil and thread onto skewers (5 for us since there are 5 of us in our family). Season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until the chicken is cooked through and browned, turning a time or two, about 5 - 10 minutes depending on how hot and even your grill is.
Garnish the quinoa and carrots with the pine nuts and mint. To serve, take a good sized serving of the quinoa and carrots. Top with the grilled chicken.