Red Quinoa Is So Cool!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Red Quinoa and Fennel 1Last week we drove into Boston to take advantage of the city’s annual Dine Out Boston. For this event, many of the town’s best restaurants offer $38 three-course menus. We opted for Zebra’s Bistro in the western suburb of Medfield and were joined by our son and his wife, food lovers par excellence. Wontons stuffed with braised short rib on sriracha cole slaw and crispy falafel garnished with beet yogurt were winning starters. Braised lamb stew with homemade pasta was a delectable main, but my favorite dish of the night was pan-seared trout atop a warm red quinoa salad.

I rarely cook with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), but this dish made me a convert. An ancient, nutrient-packed grain that is gluten-free, quinoa comes in varied colors (the most common is beige). My red quinoa salad, prepared with small burgundy-hued grains, was a perfect visual foil for coral-tinted trout, and was the inspiration for the recipe that follows.

I cooked the quinoa, pilaf-style, combining it with sautéed fennel, carrots and onions, then simmering it in stock for about 20 minutes. Grated lemon zest and crushed fennel seeds rounded out the flavors. In place of trout I used scallops (I’m in a scallop phase right now—last week’s recipe also included this bivalve!), and sugar snaps made a nice accompaniment. The delicious results were a nice departure from rice or couscous. I think the quinoa is best served immediately, but I did reheat some leftovers for lunch the next day, and licked the bowl clean!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Red Quinoa and Fennel
1- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced fennel (1/4 in cubes)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup diced carrots (about 1/4 in cubes)
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup red quinoa (see market note)
2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt plus more if needed
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds (see note)

Scallops
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
16 sea scallops (about 1 pound), side muscles removed and discarded
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp chopped chives

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add the fennel, onion, and carrots. Cook, stirring often and adding more oil if needed, until the vegetables are just tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring often, until the grains start to crackle slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a nice simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice and the crushed fennel seeds. Season with more salt if needed. Cover pan to keep quinoa warm.

3. For scallops, heat oil and butter in a medium, heavy skillet set over medium high heat. When hot, add scallops and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. They should be opaque and cooked through. Salt and pepper well.

4. Mound about 2/3 cup quinoa in four shallow bowls or on four plates and arrange some scallops on top. Drizzle 1/2 tsp lemon juice over the scallops in each bowl and spoon any remaining pan drippings over them. Sprinkle some chives over each serving. Serves 4.

Note: Red quinoa is sold bulk and packaged at Whole Foods.

Note: You can crush fennel seeds in an electric spice grinder, or place in a mortar and crush finely with a pestle, or seal them in a plastic bag and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin. The seeds should be finely crushed.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014

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