Friday, January 14, 2011

Quinoa Gratin with Roasted Rutabaga and Spinach

Every time I gear up to write about why I made a particular recipe, my first thought is “I needed to get rid of…” and I’m now starting to think that this is my token kitchen strategy. I used to read through recipes and then buy ingredients for them. Now I buy vegetables because they are aesthetically pleasing and woo me at the market. Then I get home and have to find a way to use them which often translates as “getting rid” of them. (Perhaps I’m not doing them enough justice with my semantics). The other common scenario of “cooking to kitchen cleanse” is dealing with leftovers.

In this case I had overestimated a batch of quinoa, cooking up a whole cup of dried grain. I ended up with a lot of leftovers and though there is usually no problem using up cooked quinoa, I was on a green salad craze last week and didn’t notice the quinoa until it had almost reached expiration. For the first time in a long time, I looked up quinoa recipes.

Quinoa makes a great pilaf and a great filler ingredient in dishes such as fritters and veggie patties. But I didn’t feel like patting cakes and I didn’t feel like going through the fuss of marinating tofu or tempeh as a main dish to go alongside a quinoa pilaf. So I looked for less conventional recipes and found a slew of them for quinoa gratin. My only experience with gratin was in the context of potatoes. Know I understand gratin is more a technique that involves a browned crust, cheese, and eggs. Of course a dish that screams of all things non-vegan is one I must veganize.

Most of the recipes called for 3-5 eggs so clearly the common egg substitutes (applesauce, flax or a flour egg-replacer) were not going to cut it in this dish. It made me think of a quiche-gratin hybrid, though I placed the emphasis to be on the grain, not the “egg” which is of course the overwhelming texture in quiche. This then became more of an omelette project, kind of like Spanish tortilla (which I now think is possible after making this and will attempt soon). The first recipe to come up on my search for “vegan omelette” was of course from the Fat Free Vegan blog and I based my “egg” portion off of Susan’s Vegan Omelette for One. I added a little more moisture and used vegetable broth to make it more savory. This came together beautifully: perfectly golden crust, moist and flavorful filling, with tender bits of sweet rutabaga. The taste was very fancy for how easy it was to prepare.

Quinoa Gratin with Roasted Rutabaga and Spinach
Makes: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


1 small rutabaga, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

6 oz. silken tofu (extra firm)
3 T. vegetable broth
3 T nutritional yeast
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp turmeric

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 c. mushrooms, chopped
2 c. spinach
1/4 c. vegetable broth from bouillon
1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
Salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 450F.

Coat rutabaga in olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, turning vegetables half way through to ensure all sides are browned. Remove and set aside.

While rutabaga cooks, prepare the "egg" portion. Combine tofu with next 7 ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until completely smooth. Set aside.

Lower oven to 375F.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add onions and cook until they start to become translucent, 5-6 minutes, spraying onions with more cooking spray if pan becomes too dry. Add garlic, herbs and mushrooms, turning mixture to coat well in spices. Cook another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add spinach and broth and cook until spinach wilts, about 30 seconds. Stir in quinoa, roasted rutabaga, salt and pepper and remove from heat. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

Pour the "egg" mixture over quinoa and stir to mix well. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until gratin is set and the top starts to brown. Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before scarfing down!

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