Apolinaras has quite the green thumb. Our apartment has a Juliet balcony, which is basically a huge sliding glass door that opens to umm, the bars of the balcony like this one. So as you can imagine, there’s really not much room for plants, but Apolinaras is quite the resourceful gardener and has managed to hang a couple flower boxes. He filled them with basil, rosemary, hot peppers, and snow peas, and they’re already sprouting. He also has a tomato plant hanging off the satellite dish that pipes Lithuanian TV into our place, which sort of cracks me up. I already have to routinely drag him out of the plant section of Home Depot, and I can’t imagine how much time he’ll spend in gardening centers once he has a real yard!
His blossoming basil plant was just begging to be used recently, and I decided I needed to make something that Apolinaras would especially enjoy since I would be harvesting his first crop. Unlike my carb loving self, he always picks quinoa over any other grain (couscous, rice, pasta, etc), so I mixed some quinoa with a basil vinaigrette and then stirred in a healthy dose of chicken, eggplant, zucchinis, sun dried tomatoes, feta, and pine nuts. This was such a nice light summer meal. I’m so glad his plants are flourishing!
Basil Quinoa with Chicken, Eggplant, Zucchini, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 zucchinis, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup crumbled feta
1 teaspoon salt
To make the basil vinaigrette, place basil, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a food processor and pulse for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.
Meanwhile, to make the quinoa, place quinoa and water in a large stockpot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and quinoa is soft.
Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and sauté chicken for to 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the center; place chicken in a large bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and place zucchini in the pan; sauté for 3 minutes, then add remaining 1 tablespoon olive to the pan, along with the eggplant. Sauté for 6 to 8 additional minutes or until veggies are tender. Place eggplant and zucchini in the bowl with the chicken.
Place quinoa in a large bowl and stir in basil vinaigrette until quinoa is evenly covered. Stir in the chicken, eggplant, and zucchini mixture, and the sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, feta, and salt. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition: 517 calories, 27.3g fat, 7.2g fiber, 25.9g protein per serving
Cost: $1.68 per serving