Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

This is the recipe that made me like quinoa, maybe even love it: fluffy quinoa with asparagus drenched in basil pesto, good enough right there… but then served with fresh ripe tomatoes and warm roasted portobello mushrooms – it’s a knockout combination. I owe thanks to Chef Tracy Morrisette, whom I worked with at the Goddess Garden in Costa Rica earlier this year, who convinced me with this combination that quinoa could be fantastic. If you are (like I was) in the camp that quinoa is no better than glorified bird seed, this recipe will convert you. (Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain – it is gluten-free, very high in magnesium (cardiovascular health) and also has more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than most grains. It’s also naturally high in protein and fiber.)

This can be served nearly raw as a summer salad or lightly baked as a gorgeous entree…

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portobello (serves 4)

  • 4 medium-sized vine ripe tomatoes, (or two large heirloom)
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (for 8 minute recipe, see below*)
  • 6 T  creamy blue-green basil pesto (any version)
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, in 1″ pieces
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 T water
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (opt)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 4 medium portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T well aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t maple syrup, palm sugar or agave (if balsamic is not well aged)
  • Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Prep the tomatoes: Cut the tops off of medium tomatoes, or cut the big heirlooms in half, horizontally.With your fingers, gently scoop out all seeds and inner membranes of each tomato, leaving a hollow cup. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in gently with your hands. Let sit while you prepare the quinoa.

Prep portobello: toss mushrooms with oil and vinegar salt and pepper until well coated all around. Taste and adjust – should be delicious already. Spread out in single layer on heavy baking pan.

Make Pesto-Quinoa Pilaf: Quickly saute asparagus with a small amount of olive oil, water and salt for 1 -2 minutes until slightly tender, toss with squeeze of lemon and zest. Toss in quinoa, nutritional yeast and warm through gently. Add pesto – taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Stuff each tomato or tomato half generously with quinoa pilaf. (If tomatoes are small they can be split into 4 quarters to accommodate more filling, but not necessary.) Organize in baking dish or sheetpan and place both portobello and tomatoes in very hot oven to roast for 10 – 15 minutes or just until tomatoes are hot through and top of pilaf has a touch of brown. Portobellos should be ready in about the same time but keep and eye on them.

I served with a lightly dressed arugula salad (arugula and a squeeze of lemon in the unwashed mushroom marinade bowl… ).

~~~~~~~~Other Versions: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Stuffed Tomato Salad – just don’t roast:  serve room temp pilaf in the fresh tomato shells over arugula, with un-roasted marinated portobellos on the side.

Un-stuffed Salad: Forget the whole stuffing thing, and just serve a big  scoop of warm or room temp pilaf over a plate or bowl of gorgeous sliced summer tomatoes.

Pesto Quinoa with Garlic Scapes: replace asparagus with fresh garlic scapes in above recipe.

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*Tracy’s 8-minute Fluffy Quinoa:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch sea salt

Wash quinoa several times to get rid of soapy taste. Cover in fresh water and let soak 1 hour or over night to activate enzymes (skip this if you are in a rush). Rinse one more time drain. Boil quinoa gently in small pot for 8 minutes only in salted water. (Yes, it’s really only 8 minutes and a 1:1 ratio- even a bit less if you are making a very large pot of 8 cups or more). Fluff with fork, cover tightly and let rest for 5-10 minutes more to totally fluff up and expand.

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July 4, 2011 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 7 Comments

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan, too)

Pesto, like chocolate, is one of those wonderfully strong-flavored things that you can slip all sorts of healthy stuff into without anyone guessing. My most favorite surreptitious ingredients in basil pesto are hemp seeds and blue green algae. Hemp seeds are full of complete and easily digestible protein, have the highest essential fatty acids of any plant food on the planet – a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid, which is good for for your heart and immune system – and best of all, they taste a bit like pine nuts. (They can completely replace the nuts in your pesto recipe without anyone noticing, but I usually do a mix of hemp and raw cashews because I really like the sweet creaminess the cashews add.) The blue-green algae is full of chlorophyll and phytonutrients, plus adds some trace minerals and vitamins, and can also go undetected, even by the pickiest of (12 year old) eaters. My boyfriend’s son Kai generally does not eat “foods of color” but curiously loves pesto, which is what motivated me to try to slip as much other healthy green stuff in as I could. The last time I made it we did it together, but I slipped in the blue-green algae at the end when he wasn’t looking. Can’t reveal everything to everyone all the time…

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan)

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and picked (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 t umeboshi vineger (optional)
  • 1/2 t fresh black pepper
  • 4 capsules Crystal Manna Blue Green Algae

Save out a handful or basil leaves, and then blend all remaining ingredients well in blender or Vitamix until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for salt – this should be well salted and fairly intensely flavored, as a little goes a long way. Add remaining basil leaves and blend briefly, maintain a little texture. (You can add in a few more nuts here too, if you want a little crunch). Use at once or keep in glass jar with a puddle of olive oil on the top to keep it from going brown. Will keep 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge.

Play with your pesto!

Pesto can be made with really anything so please get creative with what is in the fridge.

  • Add a little parsley to the blender to up the green intensity
  • Add a bit of nutritional yeast to make it richer and slightly cheesy
  • Use any other type of nut here, pine nuts are traditional, but I have had great pesto made with pistachios, walnuts and even sesame seeds. Or make it with all hemp.

Also, I just want to say that the amounts of everything are extremely flexible – I have make a 10 minute pasta with a  “chunky pesto” sauce using about 10 basil leaves from a withering basil plant who’s day had come… in this case it went into a mortar and pestle with 1/2 clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and got chopped toasted pine nuts mixed in later. Just proving that 10 fresh leaves are infinitely superior to any pre-fab pesto sauce you could ever buy from anywhere!

Pesto is not just for pasta- its great on steamed potatoes and vegetables, and is fantastic mixed with quinoa. If, like me, you never thought “fantastic” and “quinoa” should appear in the same sentence, check out Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment