the taste space

Quinoa with Caramelized Onions and Zucchini

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on May 2, 2012

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?

Not if you are Rob and me.

We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)

Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.

One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.

I say: BRING IT ON! :D

While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan.  Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.

Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.

In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.

But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)

Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks Veggie Heaven and to Cookbooks Sundays.

Quinoa with Caramelized Onions and Zucchini
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Every Day!

2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 lb zucchini (3 small zucchinis), cut into 1/2-cm slices
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well
3/4 to 1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp chopped parsley
juice from half a lemon (2-3 tbsp – I used a Meyer lemon)
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (or almonds)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions. Sprinkle with some salt to allow them to release their juices. Meanwhile, cut your zucchini and add it to the skillet along with the thyme and some more salt and fresh pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is soft and golden. (If you prefer bona fide caramelized onions, saute your zucchini slices separately). Add the garlic, turn the heat up to medium and fry for an additional minute.

2. Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa: Bring vegetable broth to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add quinoa. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Keep covered for an additional 5 minutes to steam. Set aside.

3. Sprinkle lemon juice overtop the zucchini mixture and stir to deglaze the pan. Add quinoa and parsley and stir over medium heat for 1 minute more. Turn off heat, season to your tastes. Just prior to serving, top with toasted pine nuts.

Serves 2 (or 4 as a side).

31 Responses

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  1. sprint2thetable said, on May 2, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    You travel like I do – I want to have an adventure! I’ve never been to Columbia, but I hear it’s beautiful. Too bad we won’t be in SA at the same time!

    This dish sounds wonderful – quinoa and zucchini are two of my favorite foods.

  2. rszumlak said, on May 2, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    I love crazy trips!! BRING IT ON indeed!

  3. Amber said, on May 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    That hike sounds intense! I raise my glass to you! This recipe sounds delicious and sauteed zucchini is one of my favorite things. I will make it for lunch next week. Thanks!

  4. Priya Yallapantula said, on May 2, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Wow, love it, great looking.

  5. Eileen said, on May 2, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    I know nothing about traveling anywhere in South America, so I have no advice–besides maybe sunblock, sunblock, sunblock–but that quinoa and zucchini combination looks fabulous!

  6. Joanne said, on May 2, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    How fun! I think you are just a TAD crazy for taking on that trek…but I hate being dirty more than anything. And I’m also the biggest worrier ever…so you really should take everything I say with a grain of salt. :P Anything with caramelized onions sound good to me! As long as there are fruits and veggies there, I think you’ll be okay. But I would bring lots of nuts with you just in case…you’ll need al ot of energy for those hikes!

  7. Kammie said, on May 2, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    Oh yeahhh, this look fantastic.

  8. Maggie Muggins said, on May 3, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    That trip sounds crazy intense! You’re going to have all kinds of amazing stories when you get back,,,hopefully fire ants aren’t involved. I’ve never been anywhere that exciting, but I can suggest some snacks. Nuts/dried fruit, tetra packs of milk, nut butter, protein bars, veg jerky, tea, you could also make some homemade granola, granola bars and breakfast cookies.
    I used to hate caramelized onions (I was a weirdo), but they make dishes taste so delicious!

  9. Ella @ Lifeologia said, on May 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    That looks so good and so satisfying!

    Would love it if you shared this or one of your other great recipes at my Potluck Party:

    http://www.lifeologia.com/potluck-party-protein-rich-vegan-recipes/

  10. Dawn said, on May 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Girl!!!!! This is going to be so exciting) I wish I could go. I love the trip advisor description. And great choice with the quinoa

  11. Kahakai Kitchen said, on May 6, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    It sounds like a wonderful trip. Can’t wait to hear about the cooking class. This salad looks delicious–love the caramelized onions and the toasted pine nuts on top. Thanks for sharing it with Souper Sundays. ;-)

  12. Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook said, on May 6, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    Sounds like an exciting trip for you. Not for me, the only thing I could appreciate is sleeping in the hammock! The quinoa salad looks amazing!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on May 6, 2012 at 9:57 PM

      Funny you mention the sleeping in the hammock – I am actually afraid I will have difficulties sleeping in it. Although Rob assures me that I will be too pooped to notice and sleep like a baby. We’ll see! :)

  13. Melissa said, on May 6, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    Oooh! Columbia! I took a 2 week trip to Leticia, Columbia a few years ago for a medical mission trip and we camped in the jungle for 4-5 days. It was awesome! My advice: bring some lightweight long sleeved shirts (to keep the bugs away) and lightweight pants that you can preferably zip off into shorts. And the hammocks are AWESOME. Surprisingly comfortable. The plantains and Yucca are a MUST TRY. You’re going to have a blast! jealous!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on May 7, 2012 at 7:56 AM

      Oooh, awesome! I wonder if we are doing the same hike. Thanks for the tips! I have never tried yucca, so I am itching to give it a try. :)

  14. Couscous & Consciousness said, on May 7, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    Wow – that is a very intrepid sounding holiday – not for me, but I can certainly admire anyone game enough to put themselves through that.

    Quinoa is one of my favourite “grains” too, and I love this combination of ingredients.

    Thanks for sharing this at Cookbook Sundays.

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  18. Anna-Marie said, on May 12, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Colombia – wonderful! enjoy the amazing fruits and vegetables, the rice and beans, the yucca and maize – it’s all good. And take some grapefruit seed extract (liquid or capsules) to guard against any stomach upsets. Bug spray too. Sunglasses and a hat :)

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