..Not the “dinner party” type? No problem. Serve this dish in a bowl, with a spoon. The scene: it’s a cozy autumn night and you’re snuggled in flannel pajamas with your fave fall TV show bouncing shadows off your living room wall.
Comfort food or glam food – either way one thing is for sure: this meal is packed with healthy nutrients!
Quinoa is rich in protein and fiber and it is a genius alternative to standards like rice and even pasta. The fennel is low in calories, high in flavor and is a tummy-pleaser – known to improve digestion. The butternut squash is high in vitamin’s A, C, and E – fiber, potassium and more. And this tender-sweet fall/winter squash is always a crowd-pleaser.
So put aside the pasta marinara and try some comfort food that’s outside your culinary comfort zone. My recipe…
Red Quinoa vs. Traditional Quinoa. Who knew?! There are several varieties of quinoa. Quinoa is a ‘seed’ that most people think is a grain. After tasting red quinoa I can confirm that there is a significant difference from the norm fluffy quinoa you are used to (or not used to!)
Red quinoa is heartier, much chewier and denser in texture and flavor. The nuttiness is bold and it tastes almost like a cross between a red lentil and a plump toasted sesame seed. It is less “fluffy” than the quinoa I was used to. It took my palate a few bites to embrace the new ‘chew more’ red quinoa texture. But after I settled into my plate I welcomed the exotic hearty red quinoa bite.
The Spicy Fennel Bean Puree is almost like a thin, soft hummus. It adds the perfect kick of flavor as well as a useful texture which soaks up the quinoa for easier eating. The quinoa/bean puree combo reminds me of a rice/refried bean combo in Mexican cuisine. And you can easily add more/less fennel fronds and spices to customize the boldness of the flavor to suit your taste buds.
Craving more on these fine fall ingredients:
Onto my recipe..
Note: You do not have to use red quinoa for this recipe. You can easily substitute traditional beige colored quinoa. However, you should be able to find red quinoa at a specialty store. I actually bought this red quinoa at Trader Joe’s.
Autumn Harvest Red Quinoa on a Spicy Fennel Bean Puree
vegan, serves 3-4+
2 cups rinsed red quinoa (or any variety quinoa)
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 ounces golden raisins
1 tsp salt
optional: mixed dry spices (1-3 Tbsp)
Butternut Squash/Fennel Sage Harvest Mix
3 cups Butternut Squash, diced
1 cup fresh apple, diced
2 cups fennel, diced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp vegan buttery spread OR olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped sage
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup orange, diced (about 1/2 an orange)
1/4 cup orange juice (about 1/2 an orange, squeezed)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp black pepper
optional: 1 tsp maple syrup
Spicy Fennel Bean White Puree
1 can cannellini beans, drained
2 Tbsp lemon juice
drained liquid from cooked harvest mix (about 1/3 cup)
large handful of raw fennel fronds
1 Tbsp harissa or spicy sun dried tomato spread (or 1 tsp EVOO and 1 tsp cayenne)
1. Start off by prepping your fruit and veggies. Chop, dice, squeeze, etc.
2. Next prepare the quinoa. Quinoa cooking tips here. Bring your liquids (salted water and orange juice) to a boil, add your rinsed quinoa, raisins and optional spices – I added some cumin/cayenne and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Cover with lid and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat and allow quinoa to sit covered for another ten minutes.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, you can get started on your Sage Harvest Mix saute. Add all the Sage Harvest Mix ingredients to a saute pan. Start by adding the onions and fennel. Then the squash. The addition of water will allow the butternut squash to ‘boil’ in the shallow mixture of liquid. Cook and stir until the squash is tender and the liquid has cooked down significantly. Since not all of the liquid will cook-off, drain about 1/3 cup out of the pan and set aside for your bean puree.
4. When both the quinoa and Harvest mix are cooked you can 1) toss them together or 2) keep them separate and plate them in layers. I personally mixed half of the mix in with the cooked quinoa and kept some separate or a clean top layer of veggies on my plate.
5. For the bean puree, simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor. This is when you will add the reserved liquid drained off from the Harvest Mix. Taste the puree. Add more spices for more heat.
6. Plating: Pour a small circle of bean puree on the bottom layer. With the round end of a spoon, smooth the puree out to a wide circle that covers the plate. Next add a spoonful of your hot quinoa. Then another layer of harvest veggies on top. (Of more quinoa/veg mix if you combined them together).
7. Lastly, garnish with fresh fennel fronds and black pepper. Serve!