I love when recipes take me by surprise, like this one did. I was perusing cookbooks at Borders during my lunch break and ran across a recipe for quinoa with pumpkin. This was seconds before I needed to step out and head back to the office, so I didn't stay and finish reading the recipe. On the walk back, I thought about those two ingredients and what else I might add to the dish.
Cilantro came to mind, and I love pumpkin with Mexican flavors, so I thought about making a pesto with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and adding black beans. It started sounding like my favorite kind of weeknight meal: healthy and easy, but also interesting. The pesto turns the quinoa a light shade of green, and the pumpkin adds color and creaminess to the dish.
QUINOA WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN AND CILANTRO PESTO
Pepitas are pumpkin seeds, and a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine. This pesto combines cilantro, pepitas, and lime for a tex-mex spin on an Italian classic.
2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 cups pumpkin, diced into 1/2-inch chunks (from 1 medium sugar pumpkin)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups loosely packed cilantro
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup raw pepitas, plus 2 tablespoons
Juice of half a lime
1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
Goat cheese (optional)
In a medium stock pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa, then reduce to simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss pumpkin with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
In a food processor, combine the cilantro, garlic, pepitas, lime juice, and some salt and pepper. Pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Stream in about 1 cup of olive oil, or until the pesto is smooth.
Add the quinoa to a large serving bowl. Pour in the pesto and toss to combine. Add the black beans and pumpkin, and gently toss again. Serve with additional pepitas on top, and goat cheese, if using.