Although I use rice or bread in most of my bentos, I do like to mix it up with various other grains on occasion. Quinoa is probably my favorite alternate grain; it has a fun pop-y texture and nutty flavor, especially if you sauté it a bit in oil before steaming, and is so high in protein that it can considered to be a serious alternative protein source. This is really a carb and protein dish all in one.
While most quinoa recipes seem to be vegetarian, this one is not, though you can easily turn it into a vegetarian or vegan dish. I’ve added just a little bit of dried sausage or saucisson sec though - its meaty, assertive flavor really goes well with the quinoa and the fresh peas. (In France, peas are often cooked with bacon.) Saucisson sec just means dried sausage, so you can use salami, chorizo, pepperoni, or any similar hard sausage that you can eat sliced without cooking. Whole brown mustard seeds add a little bite. This dish can be made in advance, eaten for dinner one day and bento a day or two later.
I’ve used fresh peas here, which are in season where I live, but frozen peas will work just as well.
Makes about 4 cups cooked, for 4 to 8 bento sized servings. About 1000 calories total for the whole amount.
Sauté the onion, garlic and sausage in the olive oil over medium-high heat, until onions are limp and the sausage has rendered its fat and is turning a bit crispy. Add the quinoa and sauté briefly until it is lightly browned. Add the mustard seeds and sauté for a minute or two, to bring out the flavor.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the salt, pepper, herbs and green peas, and put on a lid. Let it cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed and the quinoa is no longer hard. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve warm or cold. This will keep in the refrigerator, well covered, for 2 to 3 days. You’ll want to pack a spoon with your bento to eat this.
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