A good recipe is never fully finished, even if it’s tested, printed, and published. Rather than static pieces of history, indelible for generations to come, the most trustworthy formulas still evolve as they change hands. An overabundance of new recipes and effortless access to them through the internet has sadly degraded their value, but each recipe should be considered a living thing, needing care and attention, not to mention an occasional grooming.
One mere flicker of an idea is all it takes to start the wheels rolling, and in my case where the process often stalls. Idea overflow is a common, but happy problem to deal with, so flavor combinations or concepts are initially filed away into little text documents, sprinkled across two hard drives. If they survive long enough to be found again, and still resonate, only then do they have a fighting chance of being born. Thus, cleaning up the bulging recipe depository on a slow day, I came across the seeds for a promising recipe that just barely escaped oblivion. Tucked away in the dark for half a decade, it seemed that they might never be planted.
= Quinoa Diablo
A cryptic reminder that only I would understand, the tiny spark that could start a bonfire, this one wasn’t about to get away again.
Fleshing out the concept with black beans, roasted red peppers, and red beets for that vibrant hue, it began to grow, turning into the smoky, spicy, and brilliantly ruby red side dish I knew it could be. Though it can easily steal the spotlight on any dinner plate as is, the idea just didn’t seem complete yet. It still had more evolving to do.
When large, brawny beefsteak tomatoes went on sale the next day, I knew I had my answer. This quinoa pilaf was meant to be stuffing all along! After excavating the cores, those cooked pearly grains slipped right in; a perfect fit. Tucked in by a light, cobwebby blanket of shredded “mozzarella,” a kiss of heat from the oven finally brought everything together.
Tomatoes splitting down the seams but still holding strong, they were tender enough to cut with a fork. Quality, burstingly ripe tomatoes are what make all the difference here.
Though my itch to “finish” the recipe is satisfied at long last, I know that it’s no where near done yet… I can only wonder, what spin will the next hungry cook put on it?
Quinoa Diablo Stuffed Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Red Onion, Diced
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Light Agave Nectar
2 Cups Vegetable Stock or Water
1 Cup Dry Quinoa
1 Medium Red Beet, Peeled and Diced
1/3 Cup Sundried Tomatoes, Julienned
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 15-Ounce Can Black Beans, Rinsed and Drained
2 Medium Roasted Red Peppers (1 12-Ounce Jar,) Diced
Handful Fresh Basil, Chiffonaded
To Assemble (Optional):
4 – 6 Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
1/4 – 1/2 Cup Shredded Vegan Cheese
First, caramelize onions by heating up the oil in a medium saucepan along with the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with agave. Keep the heat on medium-low, and stir periodically, until the onions become golden brown and aromatic. Be patient; this could take as long as 30 – 40 minutes, but adds the rich, flavorful backbone to the whole dish.
Meanwhile, heat the stock or water in a separate medium or large saucepan over medium heat. When boiling, add in the quinoa, red beet, dried tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the beans and roasted peppers. When the onions are properly caramelized, mix them into the quinoa as well. Sprinkle with basil and add more salt to taste, if necessary. You could stop here and serve immediately while still hot, or…
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Use a sharp paring knife to remove the core from each tomato, and then dig out the watery seeds and guts with a grapefruit spoon. Turn the hollowed-out tomatoes upside down over a wire rack while you work on the rest, allowing any remaining liquid to drain out.
Place the empty tomatoes on your prepared baking sheet, evenly spaced, and fill them to the top with the quinoa mixture. Pack it in lightly so that it there are no voids inside and all of the tomatoes bake evenly. Sprinkle your vegan cheese of choice over the tops, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are fork-tender, the skins are splitting, and the cheese has melted.
Top with additional fresh basil and enjoy!
Serves 4 – 6 as main; 8 – 12 as side