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1 Pot of Quinoa, 5 Dinners

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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: Carolyn Cope from Umami Girl takes quinoa from fitness superfood to weeknight superhero. 

My friend Steve once spent a long day biking in Northern California with a fitness-obsessed colleague. They talked a lot about getting in shape, how to work out, what to eat. "Quinoa," the guy says. "Total superfood. Protein, nutrients, general awesomeness." Steve thinks, "right, I can do quinoa. Not exactly at the top of my bucket list, but okay. Eat more quinoa." Flash forward to the rest of Steve's super-fit life: rock-hard abs, gorgeous blood work, and total, utter joylessness. 

That's how I used to feel about quinoa. Not so much a food for people with an intolerance to gluten or to environmental degradation or even to sloth, but a food for people with an intolerance to joy. Thankfully I've come a long way, in large part because I learned how to make this so-called superfood taste as good as it looks on paper. Here are five easy ways to do just that this week, all starting with one pot of quinoa. 

More: Are wheat berries more your style? Make a week's worth of dinners out of those, too. 

Quinoa, Fava Bean, and Chard Veggie Burgers
I made a double batch of these veggie burgers last weekend and couldn't stop eating them throughout the week. Topped with a thick slice of grilled Halloumi and a dollop of olive tapenade, they made me want to stop dating other burgers for a while. Though not terribly demanding, this is the most labor-intensive of the week's recipes, so make it while you're still really excited about that pot of quinoa. The burgers hold together just fine with careful handling but are a little delicate, so I'd recommend making them smallish and cooking them in a pan instead of on the grill. 

Lemony Quinoa with Leeks, Spinach, and a Fried Egg
On a night when you've only got a few minutes, sauté a couple of sliced leeks and three or four big handfuls of baby spinach in some olive oil in a skillet. Spoon in a cup of quinoa to warm through. Finish with a little lemon juice and zest, and top with a fried egg. This is one of my favorite dishes -- comforting but still bright and full of flavor.

Pinto Bean and Quinoa Tacos
Bean tacos with the works have been a family staple and easy crowd-pleaser of ours for years, and adding some quinoa to the mix only increases this meal's superhero status. For the beans, sauté a diced onion, a green or red bell pepper, and a few minced garlic cloves in olive oil. Then add two drained and rinsed 15-ounce cans of pinto beans along with a cup of stock, a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of salt if your beans aren't salted, and a teaspoon of chili powder. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for ten minutes or so, until the beans and the now-reduced liquid have gotten over their awkwardness and really started to commune. Use a potato masher to magic the whole thing into a nice, textured purée. Then stir in some fresh lime juice and a big handful of chopped cilantro. We like to use flour tortillas and top with sliced avocado or guacamole, shredded cheese, cilantro sauce, and pickled onions. Yup, all of the above. No judgment.

Miso Broth with Spring Vegetables and Quinoa
Miso broth is a genius among stocks. It's scrappy and simple to make yet has an incredibly satisfying, complex flavor. Try making miso soup a meal by adding some sliced shiitakes and scallions, julienned summer squash, and a big scoop of quinoa to this broth to cook for a few minutes before stirring in the miso.

Quinoa Porridge with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote
Craving something a little sweet by now? Heat up a scoop of quinoa with some milk (I use homemade almond milk). A sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg never killed anyone, either. Top with a nice dollop of rhubarb-strawberry compote and a few pistachios, and it's breakfast for dinner. Or for breakfast.

Quinoa, Fava Bean, and Chard Veggie Burgers

Serves 6

1 cup cooked quinoa
2 cups fresh or frozen fava beans
4 ounces chard, center ribs removed
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces Halloumi cheese, cut into 6 slices
6 tablespoons olive tapenade
6 whole grain rolls
6 handfuls mixed greens, such as frisee and pea shoots

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Carolyn Cope

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Tags: Quinoa, Weeknight Cooking, Everyday Cooking, Halfway To Dinner