I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe yet. I've long since lost the original so I can't cite the source of inspiration, but this is how I make it. The combination of cumin, cayenne, and maple syrup is divine. Yams and red pepper provide earthiness and sweetness, and quinoa, as we all know by now, is one of the healthiest things you can possibly consume. The dish scales up easily for a crowd, is best eaten around room temperature, and would certainly travel well. It's absolutely delicious and goes with just about anything; I've served it with everything from steak to salmon to chicken, salmon being our favorite. Sold? Yay! Let's make it!
I've used all manner of sweet potato in this recipe, garnet yams being my favorite, but any will do. Just don't use a regular potato here, it won't be nearly as interesting.
The cilantro is optional for those weirdos who think it tastes like soap, but for us normal people, it add a fresh hit of grassiness that ties the whole dish together.
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
1 medium yam, peeled and cut into about 1/2" cubes
1 tsp cumin
1/2 a red bell pepper, finely diced
1 shallot or 1/2 a small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
few pinches cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
juice of 1/2 a lemon
handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
In a small pot with a lid, combine the quinoa with a cup of water and sprinkle of kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, until the water has all been absorbed. It should take about 10 minutes. Then taste for doneness; it should retain a little pop when you chew it, but not be outright crunchy. If it's still too raw, add a little more water.
While that's happening, heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick pan. When hot, add the yam cubes, sprinkle them with the cumin, and sauté until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Next add the red pepper, shallot, and garlic, tossing through and allowing to cook until softened, another 5 or 10 minutes. Season with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper, then taste one of the larger yam chunks for doneness. If it's tender, add the now-cooked quinoa to the pan along with the maple syrup, lemon juice, and cilantro. Stir thoroughly to combine.
Serves 2, takes half an hour.