Summer Vegetable Quinoa Bake

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I have no clue why I bother making an editorial calendar.

Before we go any further, if you’re picturing some sort of fancy, meticulously organized, color-coordinated wall calendar…stop it. My “editorial calendar” is a plain old Google cal in which I write the names of recipes (and sometimes a quick note on their inspiration) that I’m planning to post on specific dates. I try to have everything “booked” 1-2 months out, but like I said, I’m not sure why because I never stick to it. Ever.

For example, last week I had “Crispy Strawberry Oatmeal Cakes—childhood strawberry deprivation bc eczema” scheduled on Tuesday, and “Shrimp Burrito Bowls—talk about all the burritos you ate after that weird hip hop class in college” on Thursday. I opened my calendar Monday morning, saw my plans, and thought, “NOPE. Do not want. Let’s do Father’s Day week!!” (That had actually been on the calendar the week before, but I ended up having to go to LA last minute and never got around to it. C’est la vie.)

Honestly, I should probably scrap the calendar altogether and just get down with my bad self in terms of making whatever recipes float my boat on a given day, but then I wouldn’t know when it was time for the quarterly quinoa bake!! DISASTER. I don’t respect the editorial calendar 361 days a year, but on those other 4? I’m its slave. Under no circumstances will this weird blog lady fuck with the quarterly quinoa bake delivery. Not only do I look forward to it personally, but hordes of people are also waiting for their seasonal bake with baited breath, yes?

(That was a rhetorical question.)

So here she is, 2017’s Q2 winner, the Summer Vegetable Quinoa Bake.

This bake is straight fire, friends, and it might just be one of the best things to happen to you this summer. I don’t want to promise too much, but I honestly think this bake is better than listening to Despacito on your way home from the beach. With the top down. After three glasses of rosé. Si, it’s that good.

This baby is loaded with all of summer’s finest produce—zucchini, summer squash, corn, red bell pepper, and juicy cherry tomatoes—your favorite trendy whole grain, and…count it….THREE cheeses. Goat cheese lends its signature creamy tang, Fontina acts as the requisite melt-y staple, and Parmesan gets folded into the garlicky panko topping for a lil extra savory fun. This flavor combo is clearly bomb, but it’s the fresh basil and hit of balsamic vinegar that make this bake so damn extra.

I’m going to briefly don my Ina hat here and kindly request that you use a good quality balsamic—it really does make a big fat difference in the finished product, so treat yo’self to a nice bottle and use it in your bakes, salad dressings, and marinades all summer long.

A couple quick recipe notes and you do you suggestions before I let you scurry off to the market/kitchen. As with all quinoa bakes, this recipe requires a decent time commitment—I’m talking a solid hour from start to finish—but it’s not remotely difficult, and if you’re smart about prep, execution is a total breeze. (I like to chop the veggies while the quinoa cooks, then make the topping while the veggies cook. Easy.) And if you’re planning to entertain, you can assemble the casserole up to a day in advance and pop it in the oven just before serving. Feel free to bake it in your finest casserole dish if you’re so inclined.

This bake is a super satisfying vegetarian meal (a big green salad and some chilled rosé is always welcome in the aforementioned dinner party scenario), but it also doubles as a killer side dish with your favorite meat or poultry. If you must add meat to the recipe itself, I’d suggest a little pancetta or Italian chicken/turkey sausage. And before you even ask, yes you can experiment with different cheeses! As you may have noticed, Fontina is my quinoa bake go-to, but Gouda, provolone, cheddar, and even mozzarella would also be great. Hate goat cheese? No biggie, you could just add an extra cup of your favorite cheese. Despite the three cheese aspect, this bake is still not crazy cheesy. I try to keep it relatively tight with the amount of cheese in my quinoa bakes—plenty for flavor, but no so much that I feel weighed down afterward—but cheese lovers can always add more to their liking. Duh.

Oh, and like its many predecessors, this bake reheats like a dream, so leftovers are something to be psyched about. Thrilling breakfasts (put an egg on it!), #sassydesklunches, and second day dinners for the win.

Happy Quarterly Quinoa Bake Day, peeps! I hope you love this one even half as much as I do…

Summer Vegetable Quinoa Bake: (Serves 4-6)

¾ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1¼ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
¾ cup sweet corn kernels (from 1 ear of corn)
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1 medium yellow summer squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced crosswise into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
½ packed cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus extra for serving)
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Fontina cheese, divided
¼ cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparing your Summer Vegetable Quinoa Bake:

-In a medium saucepan (I used my Dutch oven because I like it), combine the quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Let the quinoa rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

-Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

-Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large (10- or 12-inch) ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the shallot and 4 of the minced garlic cloves and cook for 2-3 minutes until the shallots are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the garlic, peeps! If it starts to brown, turn down the heat.)

-Add the bell pepper, corn, zucchini, summer squash, crushed red pepper, and a good pinch of kosher salt to the pan. Cook until the veggies are just tender, about 5-6 minutes. (Don’t overdo it—they’re going to keep cooking in the oven.)

-Add the cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the tomatoes begin to soften. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil.

-Fold in the cooked quinoa, goat cheese and one third of the Fontina. Taste and season with a little extra salt and pepper if needed. Gently smooth the top.

-Moving on to the topping. (If you are capable of multitasking, I like to do this while the vegetables are cooking.) Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant. (It’s okay if it gets golden, but do NOT let it burn.) Add the panko and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it darkens a shade in color. Transfer to a bowl. If you have time, let it cool for a bit, then add the Parmesan and toss to combine. (You can add the Parmesan right away, but it will melt and make the mix a little more difficult to sprinkle evenly.)

-Top your quinoa bake with the remaining 2/3 cup Fontina and sprinkle with the panko-Parmesan mix.

-Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling slightly. Serve warm garnished with fresh basil.

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1 Comment

  1. Susan Stone on June 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I did not know before reading this post that you do a quarterly quinoa bake post. The only one I’ve made was the Stuffed Poblano Quinoa Bake, which is very good. I will therefore be interested in trying this one. By the way, I’m very happy to see that you don’t expect the quinoa to absorb excessive amounts of liquid (I can never get it to absorb twice the volume of liquid).

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