Chopping Away the Winter Blahs

Is it just me, or has this winter been rather unbearable? Everyone I talk to lately seems to be suffering from an acute case of the “winter blahs.” Blah…

On the weekend I jumped into a new recipe, one I’ve wanted to try for a while: the Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir-Fry from Veganomicon. The smell of fresh pineapple and the cathartic, repetitive chopping of vegetables and herbs went a long way towards banishing the blahs, at least for a little while!

This recipe is a two-parter. Cook the quinoa ahead of time and let it chill for at least a few hours (overnight is best, according to the recipe). Then assemble your stir-fry ingredients and voila! Yummy vegan dinner!

1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Combine quinoa, juice, water and soy sauce in a medium pot. Cover, place over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir a few times, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook 12-14 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover, fluff and let cool.

4 ounces of cashews, raw and unsalted
3 tablespoons peanut oil [*note: since I’m deathly allergic to peanuts and peanut products I used sesame oil here instead]
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red hot chile, sliced into very thin rounds [*note: my dining companion needs to stay away from super hot foods so I omitted this ingredient]
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup frozen green peas or shelled edamame
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin shreds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
10 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable stock
1 tablespoon mirin
lime wedges for garnish

Use the largest non-stick skillet you have. Have all of your ingredients chopped and easily within reach.
Place the cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring until lightly toasted – 4-5 min.
Remove cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium and add oil, scallions and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle add the sliced chile pepper and ginger. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add bell pepper and peas. Stir-fry for about another 3-4 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and the peas are bright green. Add the basil and mint, and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.
In a measuring cup combine the soy sauce, vegetable stock and mirin. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Stir to incorporate completely and coat the quinoa. Continue to stir fry for 10-14 minutes.
Serve with lime wedges, cashews and additional soy sauce.

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