A bit of magic happens when you bite into something that transports your senses. This voyage begins with bold flavors that nurture your zest for adventure (even if it’s just via your taste buds). In this deceptively simple dish, protein-rich quinoa takes a detour from its standard plain-grain treatment, transforming into something extra special and exotic with vibrant aromatics and a telltale zip of lime.
In this dish, cumin and coriander contribute digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits, along with lemongrass’s uplifting aromatherapy properties (read about it in Yoffie Wisdom below). Add roasted vegetables, chicken, or seared tofu to round out all your nutrition needs. For such an easy weeknight meal, a few bites will take you to faraway places!
Quinoa with Lemongrass and Lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass, plus a section of the reserved green stalk (see Beginner’s Tips)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 3/4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked quinoa
Juice and grated zest of two limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- In a medium saucepan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and lemongrass, and cook until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the coriander and cumin, and cook another 30 seconds.
- Add water or broth, quinoa, lime juice and zest, and salt to the pan. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Fluff with a fork before serving.
- Divide quinoa between 4 bowls and garnish with the cilantro.
1. Quinoa with Lemongrass, Lime, and Sautéed Chicken. Cut chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Sauté chicken breast and place atop the cooked quinoa.
2. Quinoa with Lemongrass and Seared Tofu. Cut 1 pound extra-firm tofu into 4 1/2-inch-thick slices. While the quinoa is cooking, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Place the slices of tofu in a single layer and cook, turning, until golden-brown and seared on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. At this point you might cut the slices into smaller triangles for presentation. Place atop the cooked quinoa.
3. Rosemary-Orange Quinoa. Omit the lemongrass, cumin, coriander, and lime. Replace the lime with the zest and juice of 1 orange. Add 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary when adding the liquids to the quinoa
Lemongrass can be intimidating for the first-time user, but it’s really not so scary. Cut off the tough green tops down to where it meets the whiter part of the stalk at the base (you may save the tops for infusing stocks or making lemongrass tea). Cut off the root. Peel away the layers of tough outer leaves until you find the tender inner core. Slice very thinly and then mince if desired. One stalk of lemongrass should yield about 2 tablespoons, but always bring home an extra stalk in case you get a dud and the yield is lower.
Lemongrass is rich in health-promoting flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories within the body. Luteolin, just one of these flavonoids, can potentially slow cancerous growths—shown especially the case of liver and breast cancers and leukemia, according to a study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Nutrient dense to boot, just one tablespoon of lemongrass has 2 to 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron, for women and men, respectively.
A whiff of lemongrass delivers effects way past your nose. Studies of the aromatherapeutic benefits of lemongrass suggest that the essential oils within its fragrant stalk reduce feelings of anxiety, promoting relaxation and an uplifting sense of vitality. It is thought to accomplish this by transmitting signals via a part of the brain called the limbic pathway, which is the neurological system’s emotional center. So give it a try—linger a little while over the scent of freshly chopped lemongrass!