Quinoa with Chicken, Almonds, and Squash

As I promised in my previous post, I am sharing the other recipe with you. Actually this is a dish I have made before when I still was in Lebanon and I found myself craving it a couple of weeks ago. Yeah it is this good! On the first time making it, I replaced the butternut squash with potatoes since I had none. This time, we forgot to pick up some couscous from the store, so we had to find an alternative. After consulting with Clint for a few minutes he suggested quinoa. I had bulgur or rice in mind, but I thought it could be a great opportunity for me to try quinoa, on all levels. I have never tasted it before, so you can tell I never cooked it either. So quinoa it was.

Originally I cooked this with couscous, since my mom expressed her desire to try couscous and that she did not know how to cook it or what to cook it with. She knew I have a knack for these things and we got a pack of couscous at the time and we decided to make this stew on a cold winter night. It was awesome. It was comforting, full of aromas and it felt like it could make you feel better no matter what.

When I made the recipe again, all these sensations came back to me. It is definitely something I will cook over and over again. Although there is one thing I will always leave out: saffron. Neither Clint or I like it. We added it to a Persian Celeri Stew I made a while ago, and we both thought that it ruined it.  I know some will consider us total nutcases for disliking the absolutely most expensive and sought after spice in the world. But I tell them what the French proverb says: “Il faut de tout pour faire un monde” (it takes all kinds of people to make the world).

I used chopped and frozen cilantro. Yeah, you can do that. Just chop fresh cilantro, after washing and drying it, put it in a freezer bag put it in the freezer and the rest is history: you can use “fresh” cilantro for anything that needs it. I also used home made chicken stock that I have previously frozen. It could not be more perfect!

Without further ado here is the adjusted recipe and the link to the original one.

Quinoa with Chicken, Almonds, and Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 small (American) onion , diced
  • butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup frozen chickpeas (yeah I cooked and froze those too.)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Toast the almonds in a skillet without any oil or any other way you like. Set aside.
  2. Put the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Work in batches to avoid crowding the pan, which will make it harder to brown the chicken. Remove the chicken to a platter. Add the onions and squash and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions soften. Return the chicken to the pot and add the turmeric and cinnamon. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
  3. Add the chick peas and stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered, or until the chicken is tender and the squash is cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the couscous (if using couscous) in a steamer lined with cheesecloth and place over the simmering stew. Cover and cook for 16 minutes, or until the couscous is cooked and looks swollen. Transfer the couscous to a decorative shallow bowl and season with 1/2 cup of the stew liquid, the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. You can also soak it, covered, in the stew liquid or boiling chicken stock till it is swollen if you don’t have a steamer.
  5. To cook the quinoa (if using quinoa), soak it for a bit in water and strain it. Then boil it like rice with the ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 1 1/2 cups water. Here is the recipe I followed.
  6. Add the cilantro to the stew. Check the seasoning again, place the chicken pieces and vegetables in the middle of the couscous or the quinoa, and pour the broth around the edges. Sprinkle with the almonds. Serve immediately.

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