Last Friday night the ladies in our family came together for a Mother’s Day dinner event. At dinner, Dustin’s Grandmother, Meme, sat next to me. At one point, she leaned over and asked if I was working on any new projects. I thought for a minute, and then told her about the recipe development I’ve been working on for both Live Simply and freelance clients.
As the conversation continued, I mentioned that I really strive for a minimalist approach to real food and cooking/baking. I told Meme, “I strive to use just a few basic ingredients in my kitchen. With those ingredients I try to think of as many different ways to make nourishing meals. That’s my approach to real food. Nothing complicated or fancy, just good food made from simple ingredients.”
Meme smiled, and then quickly added on to our conversation while we enjoyed the last few bites of our dinner, “That’s exactly how my mother cooked! She didn’t use lots of different fancy ingredients. She used what she had, and she made amazing meals with those ingredients. Her cooking was simple, and the end result was always delicious and wholesome.”
I left dinner that night smiling about our conversation and the words Meme shared about her mother’s cooking. While I like to envision how great-great grandma cooked and fed her family (a time before aisles and aisles of processed food), I don’t have any first hand experience with that time period. To hear from Dustin’s grandmother that her mother prepared food with simple ingredients made my real food heart incredibly giddy. Our conversation was a confirmation for me that real food is about getting back to simplicity. Grandma always knows best, right?!
Today’s recipe is exactly the kind of simple real food that I strive to make in my kitchen each week.
Cilantro Lime Quinoa is a simple side dish that’s made with only seven basic, yet incredibly nourishing, ingredients: quinoa, chicken or vegetable broth, fresh cilantro, butter, garlic, shallot, and lime juice. Oh, and a pinch of salt or two. That’s it!
Those seven ingredients, which can always be found in my pantry, fridge, or freezer come together in under 25 minutes to create a flavorful side dish that may be served on the side of a meat protein, tossed with a salad (we’re going to make a cobb salad later this week with some of the leftover quinoa), served over a sweet potato and sautéed greens (a typical lunch for me), or scooped into a bowl and topped with crock-pot black beans. Simple good food, made from simple ingredients, that serves multiple purposes. That’s my kind of real food, and it sounds like it was great-great-grandma’s kind of real food, too. Although to her it was just food.
Yes, it can be said that quinoa is kind of a fancy ingredient, and it’s probably one that great-great grandma didn’t know anything about (unless your great-great grandma lived in South America). Rice may easily be subbed for the quinoa in this recipe. After all, as you can tell from the title, this dish was originally inspired by (the restaurant) Chipotle’s cilantro and lime rice. For me, quinoa has become a very accessible (real) food thanks to Costco, so I like to use quinoa to add a bit of variety to our diet, while still keeping the ingredients and method simple.
Great-Great Grandma, I know you’d love the simplicity of this flavorful and fresh meal.
Chipotle-Inspired Cilantro Lime Quinoa
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under water. This is optional. I believe it helps take away the bitterness of the quinoa. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the shallots, and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the minced garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the rinsed quinoa. Add the broth, and stir again. Bring the broth to a boil, then cover the pan with a lid, and reduce to a lively simmer. Cook the quinoa, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until it's fluffy and the liquid has been fully absorbed.
- Once the quinoa is fluffy, remove the quinoa from the heat, and stir in the cilantro, lime juice, and salt (to taste). Serve warm.
If you don’t have any quinoa available, use rice instead. I prefer jasmine or basmati rice for this dish.
This recipe is a great prep-ahead kind of dish. I love to prepare a large serving of this quinoa on the weekend, and then serve it multiple times throughout the week: as a side with roasted chicken thighs, in a bowl with black beans and toppings, as-is, or tossed with salad greens.