Quinoa with Fennel and Chestnuts

Fennel is a vegetable I save for company and special occasions.  It seems a perfect addition to a holiday table, doesn’t it?  And it doesn’t hurt that fennel aids digestion either.  Your vegetarians will love this dish, too, because quinoa provides lots of excellent protein.

Don’t waste the green fronds on the fennel.  You can mince and add to salads or use wispy-like as a garnish.  Try that here.  I also freeze the chopped greens as a flavorful addition to soups or stews.

I love chestnuts when the weather turns towards winter and when I think of company.  Did you know that Roman soldiers were given chestnut porridge before entering battle because it is fortifying?

Serves 4                                                            

¼ C extra virgin olive oil 2 C water
2.5 lbs fennel bulb, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices 1 C quinoa (your favorite color)
1 tsp dry dill weed (or fresh minced) 1 chili pepper, seeded, chopped
1 tsp good salt (try Nordur!) ½ C chopped cilantro
1 tsp black pepper ½ C chopped mint
2 Tb lemon juice+1 Tb lemon zest ½ C peeled, ready-to-go chestnuts (I like our Galil brand)
1½ tsp ground cumin

Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add fennel, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel is just tender and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and cumin.  Cook one more minute and then set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 C water to a boil in a medium saucepan.   Add quinoa, give a stir, cover pot, turn heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.   Turn off heat and let pot sit another 10-20 minutes.

Transfer quinoa to a mixing bowl.  Coarsely chop or slice the prepared Galil chestnuts.  Add these together with all remaining ingredients, including the fennel, to the quinoa.  Toss gently to incorporate.  Here’s where I add more extra virgin olive oil, more lemon or salt and pepper, according to my taste.  Transfer this dish salad to a platter.  Serve at your holiday table.

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