Quinoa & Roasted Red Peppers with Spiced Cumin Dressing

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When I tell people that I am a health supportive chef, I am often asked “How do you make that quinoa (usually mispronounced as quin-oh-ah) stuff to taste good?” The truth is that quinoa (actually pronounced keen-wah) can be one of the most delicious grains out there. Did you know that it is the only grain that is a complete protein? Just like meat, eggs, and dairy products, it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is now recognized as the world’s most nutritious grain, but it has been around for thousands of years.

This super-grain has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains for more than 5,000 years. As a whole grain, this seed-like South American food is unique. Quinoa has about twice the protein of other grains, fewer carbohydrates, and more healthful fats. It’s also a complete protein: like meat, eggs, and dairy products, and it contains all eight essential amino acids.

This gluten-free delight is rich in iron, calcium, potassium, fiber, and lignans. A 2007 study at Osaka City University in Japan found it high in antioxidant activity too, making it exceptionally heart healthy.

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Accompanied by some smoky carrot hummus! Yum!!!
 

This recipe requires roasting red bell peppers. Roasting peppers on your own is a really easy task and the results are incredible. Learning how to prepare red peppers is amazing for a variety of reasons which includes improving your status as a host after your serve them at a dinner party. If I could share only a few tips about how to feel capable in the kitchen, learning how to make roasted red peppers would be one of them. I’ve even had neighbors confess to drooling from the smell as they pass my apartment. Learning how to make these at home makes all the difference, so please commit this Italian method to memory so you and your dinner guests can thank me after you glom them down.

This recipe calls for three red bell peppers, but I always make extra so I can have some as a snack with some fresh mozzarella throughout the week. Here’s another little tip from me to you: go buy them at Trader Joe’s. They are much cheaper there than at other grocery stores where they are COMPLETELY OVERPRICED! Another tip for those extra red peppers: Let them sit in olive oil with one clove of sliced garlic for a few hours so the flavors meld together. A final tip that comes from my mother: You may want to wear gloves depending on what stage your manicure is at because your nails could get a little stained. Mother knows best.

This hearty grain recipe isn’t appealing just for people with allergies to gluten or for vegans and vegetarians (although people with these dietary needs will LOVE this dish). Even kids and non-adventurous eaters will go for this dish and will discover that eating healthy doesn’t mean making sacrifices to taste!

Quinoa & Roasted Red Peppers with Spiced Cumin Dressing
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 red peppers, roasted, then skinned and then diced
  • 1½ cups tri-colored quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed very well and drained
  • ½ cup quartered yellow & red cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Instructions
  1. How to roast peppers: Set oven to broil. While the oven is preheating, line a half-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Wash bell peppers. (I use the red ones almost exclusively, but every now and again I will use a yellow bell pepper. The orange and green ones really don't do it for me.) Leave their stems on; you'll use them as little handles to rotate the peppers later in the roasting process. Place the peppers on the sheet, leaving only a little space between them. Place the sheet in the oven. Every 10-15 minutes, open the oven and, working quickly, turn the peppers using their stems, so that they aren't lying on the same side throughout the whole roasting period. Each time you move the peppers their skin should look past wrinkled and blistered and should be starting to turn brown/black and puffing up in spots. Try to make sure that the peppers rotate evenly throughout the process… they should be evenly darkened and collapsing in on themselves a bit when you take them out of the oven. This total process takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. Place the sheet on a cooling rack and let the peppers cool. Take it from me… don't try and peel those bad boys right when they come out of the oven because they are VERY HOT! Take the aluminum foil that they are on top of and wrap it around the peppers. This makes peeling the skins off much easier because they are sitting in steam. When the peppers have cooled for about 30 minutes, then you can start to peel them. The peel should pretty much slip right off, but the peppers themselves will be quite slippery, making this a little bit of a messy job, so you'll need to do this over the aluminum foil that they are sitting in. I peel off large sections at a time while dumping out any of the interior liquid and, of course, ridding the peppers of all their seeds. Have a clean plate ready for the cleaned, peeled pepper segments. Cut them into strips and place them on the plate. If you have extra peppers, keep them in a tupperware with some olive oil and a sliced clove of garlic to have as a little snack throughout the week!
  2. Cook the quinoa according to package description.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne, and ½ teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth.
  4. Add the chickpeas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, and parsley to the bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss to combine.

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