Veggie Fajita Quinoa Bowl

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Sunday evening. It is a cusp time when you  want to indulge into the ‘weekend’, but not so much that it would affect your Monday morning spirit. After a busy morning with some wholesale-price grocery shopping, we decided to while away our Sunday evening in watching old Bollywood movies. In between, I quickly fixed this dinner, which turned out to be as full of colors and flavors as the stories we were watching:

VEGGIE-FAJITA QUINOA BOWL

Serves two

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
1 avocado (optional, but as usual it makes everything better!)
3 cup of fajita mix  of onion, capsicum, and bell peppers (I used cut and frozen)
3 cups of mixed soup vegetables such as peas, corn, green beans, lima beans, celery etc (I used cut and frozen)
1 teaspoon of red chili flakes
4-5 cloves of garlic
1-2 cups of vegetable stock
Olive oil to stir fry
salt to taste

Method:

  1. Cook the quinoa as per the directions on the packet. Keep aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat olive oil and stir fry fajita veggies on high heat. Chop a clove or two of garlic and add to the stir fry. After seasoning with salt, the veggies will release lot of liquid. Let it evaporate in the skillet and let the veggies cook with your desired level of char. It adds nice flavor and texture to the bowl. Remove from the skillet and keep aside.
  3. In the same skillet, again heat a little olive oil, fry remaining garlic over it. Mix in the soup mix veggies, and season. After a stirring for about 2-3 minutes, add soup stock and let the veggies cook in it and in their own juices.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat, mix the warm quinoa with veggies.
  5. Prepare your bowl with vegetable quinoa at the base. Top it with a layer of fried fajita and the avocado slices.

And then dig in with your forks! It makes for a perfectly filling yet light supper. Instead of quinoa one may use rice or chickpeas. The essence of this simple preparation is in the combined tastes of different vegetables.

 

Working woman’s Rajma (kidney beans) One-pot

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When I moved to Delhi for my PhD, I entered a whole new world of culinary experiences. It was a melting pot of different food cultures, where I imbibed influences from Bengali, North-East Indian, South Indian and Tibetan cuisines. Some of the preparations from the local Punjabi cuisine became my favorite too, like paranthas (stuffed unleavened breads) and Rajma masala (curried preparation of red kidney beans which strongly resembles chili, but doesn’t have any meat). Even if now I am faraway from Delhi,  this Michigan winter still makes me crave for some of those rich foods. So, I thought today’s lunch could be of Rajma masala, and accordingly soaked a cup of red kidney beans in water last night.

However, apart from being food-lover and cook, I am also a working woman. So between my sojourns in the kitchen,  I also have certain writing projects lined up. A conventional Rajma masala recipe could be quite time-consuming. Its essence depends on how beans blend in and exchange their flavors with its base of onion and tomato gravy. To get that effect in the open pan method, one has to stir fry chopped onions and tomatoes to their almost caramelized, golden paste perfection. And man, that does take some patience…

But at least today I couldn’t have mustered so much time and energy. So I took the inspiration from pressure-cooked one-pot version from here instead. I gathered in my pressure cooker pot, soaked Rajma,  chopped onions and tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaves, julienned ginger, garlic, thinly sliced green chilli, a teaspoon each of fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, salt, and two pinches of asafoetida. To this I added two cups of vegetable stock which I had prepared yesterday and some water. At the very end, I squirted  a teaspoon of olive oil upon it and put the cooker on stove with weight. Like the recipe mentioned , I went along with 18-20 of cooker whistles. When the steam let off on its own, I opened the cooker to a thick rich gravy and fully cooked beans. Into that, I just added some chat masala which is a mix of powdered dried mango, cumin, ginger, and salt. If you don’t have it, you can use lemon juice instead. We had this curry with quinoa, rather than a traditional long grained basmati rice, as it was a workweek lunch.

I was especially happy with the creaminess of the curry because I could attained it with just a teaspoon of olive oil. Usually the restaurant versions (and even some home-cooked ones) would use butter and fresh cream for this effect…  I guess,  sometimes you just have to trust your pressure cooker and let the magic happen 🙂

Discovering quinoa

Before I start with today, a quick note on last night’s dinner. As I mused, I did make a side of salad to go with the planned baingan bharta. I had some ready to eat herbs for salad bought from the store… a mix of rocket leaves and baby spinach. To that I added quartered and seeded orange pieces n’ pulp. Dressing was a dash of olive oil, lemon, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Before serving I hand-crushed walnut kernels over it to add some nutty flavor. Overall it turned out to be a good, except that I should have restrained on my generous squeeze of lemon. It was bit too acidic. But with this note in my mind, I would definitely try this salad again.

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Today’s lunch’s highlight was quinoa. Back in India, I had always heard about it and even seen its packets in upmarket food stores, but had never tried it. Partly because those upmarket food stores had suitably high price labels upon it. So I was pleasantly surprised a few days back, when I found a packet of quinoa while going through my husband’s previously stocked pantry. He had probably forgotten about it, after stashing it in one of the big containers, as it was not opened yet. So today, when I felt bit bored by the options of rice, roti, and noodles, it occurred to me that I can indeed now try quinoa. I followed the instructions on the packet and found that cooking quinoa was quite easy. Just to add a personal touch, I added some dried basil and a tempering of burnt garlic when it was cooked. I was very much pleased by it and am sure that I would now use quinoa more often in my kitchen.

To go with this staple, today I took out stir-fry vegetables from our freezer and cooked those with coconut milk and few dollops of ready-made Thai tom yum paste. While it turned out to be a decent veg curry, it did not really enthuse me… maybe because of the ready-made paste. I guess, I will use the paste few more times and then wash my hands off it. Firstly, I do like to make my own sauces/ pastes. Secondly, a ready-made paste does not really fit into our new resolve to focus more upon the natural food. While the maker assured that it contained no artificial flavors and preservatives, one is never sure of the salt or sugar content in these things. Yet, as a homemaker, I find it bit aggressive to just throw away a full container of something that was already bought. So I guess, the middle way is to finish it (at least, partly) and then not to buy something like it again.

We have planned a supermarket trip this evening and most likely to have a dinner out at the local Mediterranean joint. 🙂 So no more cooking for this day, except for a nice cup of black coffee now…