Vegetarian Quinoa Appetizers

Vegetarian Quinoa Appetizers Recipe

Quinoa is a grain that is perfect for a gluten free diet; however it's very bland by itself. We had a very dear friend over for lunch this weekend and she is allergic to gluten, so I was determined to figure out a satisfying way to prepare quinoa. I ended up flavoring it with parsley and a medley of vegetables and seasonings such as corn, artichokes, eggplant, button mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, French green beans, capers, bell peppers and gorgonzola. This allows the quinoa to act as a palette for the other flavors.

I served it in a large bowl for brunch, but I also set some aside for something a little more special. I placed mounds of the quinoa on gluten free crackers. The result is a fancy, tasty and unique vegetarian, gluten free appetizer that everyone can enjoy.

Ingredients

Yields: 12 servings

1-½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 eggplant
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or regular salt)
1 jalapeño (optional), roasted, skinned, seeded, finely chopped
juice of a lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon agave nectar
½ (15.25-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
¼ cup haricots verts (French green beans), about a handful
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
8 button mushrooms
½ orange bell pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, coarsely crumbled
6 ounces artichoke hearts (frozen), diced
1 (6.6-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella cheese, diced into pearl-sized pieces
½ teaspoon pink, green and black peppercorn medley, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers (see tips)
1 package gluten free crackers


Directions

Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside.

For the haricots verts:

Wash the haricots verts. Blanch them for about 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water and transfer to an ice bath. Drain thoroughly of all water, then pat dry on a paper towel. Do not overcook the green beans; they should still be tender and crisp, not mushy, or you will have depleted all the healthy nutrients. Trim the ends of the beans. Cut the beans on the bias into ½" long pieces. Set aside. 

For the eggplant:

Wash the eggplant and pat it dry. Slice the unpeeled eggplant lengthwise in 5 pieces. Layer a tray on top of a cooling rack, then place the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for ½ hour. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Brush a hot griddle pan with oil. Drizzle oil on the eggplant slices, then place them on the griddle. Cook until you get grill marks (about 4 minutes on each side). Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate. Allow to cool, then dice into small cubes.

For the parsley vinaigrette: In a blender, mix the roasted jalapeño, parsley, agave nectar, mustard, lemon juice and about 1/3 cup olive oil. Add more oil (about 1-½ tablespoons) if the blender does not flow smoothly. Set aside.

For the quinoa:

In a medium-sized pan, combine the quinoa with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the quinoa) and keep stirring every now and then so that the quinoa does not stick to the bottom and sides of the pan. Stir to prevent the grains from sticking. You want to make sure the heat is on low. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

This might take longer than the cooking instructions on the package but this way, the quinoa will be nice and tender. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Let it cool completely. Set aside.

Cooking the shallots, mushrooms and artichokes:

In a medium-sized pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slightly sauté the mushrooms until translucent. Season with salt then transfer to a platter. Add the artichoke pieces to the pan. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until each side is brown (for about 3-4 minutes). Remove from the heat. Set aside.

Assembly time:


In a large serving bowl, combine the eggplant, mozzarella and quinoa. Add as much parsley vinaigrette as you want so the quinoa turns green. Add the beans, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, orange bell pepper, capers, mushrooms and artichokes. Stir well. Adjust seasoning. Add more salt (if necessary) and the medley of peppercorns.

Plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.


Making quinoa appetizers:

Add gorgozonla to the quinoa. Mix well.

Place the crakers on a serving platter. Spoon about ½ to 1 tablespoon of quinoa salad on each cracker.

Serve at room temperature.

Bon appétit!


Tips

Roasting peppers is very easy. I used the oven method. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Spread the peppers evenly on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Roast the peppers for about 4-5 minutes until the skins blister and darken. Watch carefully so they don't burn. Wrap each pepper in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle them without discomfort. Clean and remove the skin from the peppers using a knife (or under running water); the skin will come right off. Seed them and chop the flesh. Voilà!

If you don't have any haricots verts, just substitute the thinnest young, fresh green beans you can find. To check for quality and for freshness, just break one in half; it should snap and be crisp.

Cooking quinoa is ultra simple. It's very similar to cooking jasmine rice: count one part uncooked quinoa to 2 parts water.

This recipe can be prepared in advance. Remove the quinoa bean salad  from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving. You want to make sure it's chilled but not ice cold.

I place the quinoa on top of each cracker using the quenelle method. Using 2 spoons, gather one portion of the mixture in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon. Repeat until all the quinoa is nicely packed, playing with the 2 spoons. Push the egg-shaped lump with the other spoon onto the cracker. You'll get an elegant, handcrafted form. Serve immediately.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 19, 2010.


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