Quinoa With Roasted Winter Vegetables and Broccoli Pesto

Today was my sixth and last workshop co-leading a cooking and nutrition course with Leah’s Pantry in the Tenderloin. The experience has been both humbling and challenging to say the least. Working with 12-18 people on a weekly basis who all have their own individual dietary restrictions and preferences and keeping them engaged has definitely forced me to stay my toes. I’ve been experimenting with recipes at home that are easily adaptable to a hot plate or microwave and was pretty impressed today after I watched one of our talented clients scramble two eggs in the microwave.

We decided to have a potluck to celebrate our last class. I chose to make a Quinoa with Roasted Winter Vegetables and Broccoli Pesto that I saw on Martha Rose Shulman’s blog in the NYT last week. Because it included turnips and brussel sprouts, I asked everyone to try it and then guess which ingredients they were eating. The carrots and squash were easy. Only a few of them had tried brussel sprouts previously and most were amazed that they could actually be so tasty. After giving several hints as to what the mysterious white vegetable could be did one man guess it was a turnip – they all loved it! One person couldn’t believe I made it. The broccoli in the pesto had them intrigued and as a result of this taste test, I think Martha Rose Schulman will have a new following on her website. My heart swelled with joy when the group expressed their appreciation for our classes to help teach them that healthy food can be delicious AND accessible even with their limited appliances and budgets for food. As Alex likes to say, this dish was nutritious and delicious. I’d like to add that it’s also affordable, quick, and easy to throw together.

Quinoa with Roasted Winter Vegetables and Pesto, courtesy of Martha Rose Schulman

  • 1 pound winter squash, peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled, quartered and cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half through the stem
  • 1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut in wedges
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup pesto or pistou

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil one or two sheet pans or baking dishes large enough to fit all of the vegetables in a single layer. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the vegetables in an even layer on the prepared pan. Place in the top third of the oven and bake 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and continue to bake until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, 10 to 20 minutes.

2. While the vegetables are in the oven, cook the quinoa. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Bring 3 cups water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt to taste (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and translucent, and each grain displays a little thread. Drain through a strainer and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow the quinoa to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes or longer.

3. When the vegetables are tender, remove from the heat and transfer back to the bowl. Add the pesto or pistou and stir together. Serve over quinoa.

Yield: Serves 6

Advance preparation: The vegetables can hold for a few hours once roasted, but don’t toss with the pesto until you reheat them in a medium oven. The quinoa will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the oven, on top of the stove, or in the microwave.

Broccoli Pesto

  • 1/2 pound broccoli florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, green shoots removed
  • 1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces (1/3 to 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan, or a mixture of pecorino Romano and Parmesan, to taste

1. Steam the broccoli for 6 minutes, until very tender but still bright. Remove from the heat, rinse and drain on paper towels.

2. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic. When the garlic is minced and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the broccoli and the basil to the machine and turn on. When contents are finely chopped, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the machine again and drizzle in the olive oil. Purée until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and the grated cheese, and process until well blended.

3. Transfer to a bowl and serve as a dip, spread or sauce with pasta. If serving with pasta, this amount will be plenty for a pound of pasta. Thin out with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before tossing with the pasta.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Advance preparation: You can make this a day ahead, but the garlic will become more pungent. The pesto will retain its nice color.