Sunday, December 04, 2011

Quinoa with Broccoli, Avocado and Feta

Last week I was working on an audio project, trying to cajole a two-year-old into singing "the wheels on the bus" into my microphone. My story is about public transit, and it would have made a fairly adorable little coda. But, as it turns out, two-year-olds don't always want to do what you want them to. Who knew?

As part of my assignment I snapped a few pictures of the willful little cherub, and as part of my song-taping tactic I scrolled through them to get him in good spirits. See look, it's you! Who is that? That's right! And what's that? In the middle of all this, I accidentally landed on these broccoli photos (the problem of scrolling through a food blogger's camera). Surprisingly, these turned out to be a highly amusing for the toddler set. I couldn't get this kid to sing the song in the end. But I did get lots of amusing tape of him saying bwoccoli, and then giggling at the absurdity of it all.

I can't say I share my subject's wide-eyed amusement with this dish. But I can say, without reservation, that this is a really really good dish, one of my happiest recent discoveries. It comes from 101 Cookbooks, and is a perfect trifecta of a recipe -- simple, healthy, and delicious all at once. And it's not just everyday delicious -- it's delicious in a really interesting way. 101 Cookbooks takes some basic ingredients, but uses them in an inventive (and wholly successful) combination. Broccoli is just barely cooked, and then you enjoy the delicious florets whole while blitzing the ho-hum stems into a garlicky pesto, which dresses up some quinoa. Then you toss in some buttery avocado and briny feta (and, if you follow the recommendations, some slivered almonds, but I ran out). It's my new favorite weeknight song.

Quinoa with Broccoli, Avocado and Feta

adapted, a bit liberally, from 101 Cookbooks
serves ~4, though we felt compelled to eat ridiculously large portions because it was so very good

If you want to make the broccoli pesto on its own (or have more control over the cooking time), you can boil the broccoli for a minute in salted water, then shock it to stop the cooking. But the lazyman's one-pot version seems to work quite well.

2 cups salted water
1 cup quinoa
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into small florets and stems (peel if needed), ~ 5 cups
1 clove garlic, pressed (pressing isn't necessary if your blender or food processor works well, but I always seem to be left with a surprising jolt of garlic chunk if I don't cut it up first)
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 ripe avocado, cubed
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it's just high enough to maintain a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat, and add the broccoli and stems, and re-cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. The broccoli should turn bright green and become just barely tender.

When everything has cooked, scoop the broccoli stems into a food processor or blender, and tip the remaining broccoli and quinoa into a serving bowl (if you don't want to fuss picking out the stems from tops, you can just take half the broccoli and not worry about which is which, but I find that going for just stems in the pesto isn't too much of a bother). Add the garlic, half of the almonds, the lemon juice and the oil into the processor, and pulse until a fairly smooth pesto is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste -- if you're using feta, you won't need as much salt, but keep in mind that the pesto will be spread throughout the quinoa. Tip the pesto onto the quinoa, and toss to coat evenly. top with the avocado, feta, and remaining almonds, and serve.


  1. I made this tonight for dinner. It was delicious. The only thing I did differently was to steam the broccoli on its own for a few additional minutes to get it to our liking. My husband loved it, and he usually doesn't like anything unless it has meat in it. Success!

  2. Thank you for this recipe!!! Made it last night and have some left for todays lunchbox too. It was delicious AND it was filling *she says surprised* Would like to eat more vegetarian and healthy food most if the time Im left hungry. Buy not this time:)) so, thanks again!

  3. Glad to hear this is making fans amongst vegetarian skeptics! It's such a lovely combination.