Like all the recipes on this week’s menu, this one comes from Dinner at the Zoo. This blog is one of my favorite resources for quick-and-easy dinners, but it’s pretty chicken-intensive. Which is no problem, but I’m usually not in the mood for a full week of chicken dinners, even if they’re all done in various different ways. So when I spied this simple vegetarian quinoa bowl, I figured it would be a nice healthy way to round out the menu. With an ingredients list that included tahini *and* maple syrup, I wasn’t sure it would be a home-run flavor-wise. But cashews, avocado, and sweet potatoes are all favorites of mine, and I was curious enough that I decided to give it a shot.
Fun note: I got to try out my Black Sheep dark maple syrup, which I found at our little corner market in Hampton. It’s locally made and is smoked, which I never knew was an option for maple syrup, but it has a really amazing, complex, deep flavor. A little more savory than your standard grocery store syrup, but still very sweet and perfect on pancakes, as well as sauces like this one. Canada knows what it’s doing when it comes to maple syrup.
A couple of notes for next time: I found that the sauce was not remotely drizzly. I must have had a thicker tahini than hers to start with. I tend to add lemon juice in half-lemon increments, rather than tablespoons as recipe authors usually direct. So I added a half-lemon’s worth of juice, which I think was about 2 tablespoons (twice as much as written), and it was still paste-like. I tasted it and found it a little bitter and also a little too sweet, so I tried adding some soy sauce. That tasted better but was still pretty pasty, so I added just a tiny bit of water to thin it out. It still didn’t exactly drizzle; it was more of a gloopy consistency. (Technical term.)
Additionally, my sweet potatoes and chickpeas were not as roasted as I wanted them to be after 20 minutes at 400. I actually turned the temp up to 440 with about 10 minutes to go, and cooked them an additional 5-10 minutes for 25-30 minutes total. I think that roasting at a higher temp from the start is the way to go. Heads up: my sweet potatoes released a lot of hot steam, so when you open the oven be sure to wear an oven mitt!
I have to admit that as I was dishing this up, I was feeling skeptical. The sauce still tasted bitter to me, and with a lot of understated flavors in the dish, I was expecting it to taste… well, you know, healthy.
But my fears were totally unfounded. I took the first bite and it was loaded with amazing flavor. (Granted, the liberal splash of soy sauce I added might have had something to do with that.) The roasting brought out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the nuttiness of the chickpeas. I was about halfway done with my plate and thinking, “Man, this is great, but I kinda wish it had another green vegetable in it…” and then I realized I’d forgotten all about the spinach. I threw on a handful, and the rest of the plate was perfect. It might sound implausible to suddenly crave a green vegetable, but it was just a little heavy without. The extra greens brightened it up; and because I don’t actually like greens that much, I’m always happy to find an opportunity to eat them without hating my life. 😛
I had plenty of leftovers after eating one bowl of this, so I dished the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas into three serving-sized tupperwares with the remaining sauce. They kept well in the freezer; I ate some a few days later with fresh toppings, and they tasted basically the same as when they were made. Definitely a convenient healthy lunchtime option; I would definitely make this again.
Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7