People sometimes ask me how I come up with recipe ideas. I often start with something familiar, a food or dish I’ve had before and enjoyed. Then I make some changes, or combine it with another dish to get something new, swap out ingredients, etc., until I have a unique recipe all of my own.
Take this bowl for example. I make quinoa bowls often, and the formula is fairly standard. Start with quinoa (duh), add veggies and a sauce, and finish with some garnish that contrasts the main flavors of the bowl – if it is a salty bowl, use a sweet garnish like raisins, if it is a sweet bowl, use a salty garnish like olives. You also want to contrast textures, so choose a garnish that is either crunchy or soft, depending on the main ingredients of the bowl.
So with that formula in mind, the creative part is choosing a theme for the dish; deciding which veggies and sauce are going to form the basis of the recipe. I thought to myself – what are some flavors that I really enjoy? And at the moment I found myself craving a fresh and garlicky tomato bruschetta, so I went with that! From there I just thought of other flavors that go well with tomatoes, basil and garlic, trying to keep it simple. Zucchini came to mind as it is seasonal and versatile. Same with spinach. I made a simple dressing that used the same lemon, garlic, and shallots that went into the veggie preparations, and finished everything off with some almonds for crunch and some Parmesan for salt. Yummy!
(Makes 4 bowls)
- 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
- 2 small tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 cup fresh basil, minced
- 1 lemon
- Olive oil
- 2 small zucchini, grated (I used one green and one yellow)
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (omit if vegan)
- Combine the quinoa with 3 cups salted water and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer 12-15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, fluff with fork, and allow to cool. I like to make this the night before so it is nice and cold, but you can either use the quinoa slightly warm, or rinse it under cold water to cool down if you haven’t made it a head of time.
- Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, half the shallot, half the basil, and 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the tomato bruschetta mixture aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining basil and shallot with the juice of 3/4 of the lemon and 3-4 tbsp olive oil. You will have a dressing that has more basil than liquid, but that is what you want 🙂
- Squeeze the remaining 1/4 lemon over the grated zucchini and toss to combine.
- To assemble the bowls: Divide the quinoa among 4 large bowls. Next divide the spinach, then the zucchini, then the tomato bruschetta among the bowls. Top each bowl with 1/4 of the dressing, almonds, and Parmesan. Enjoy!
*** You can prepare all the ingredients in separate containers up to one day before serving, and then assemble the bowls when ready to eat.