Cooking and baking with new and unfamiliar ingredients can feel really intimidating, so much so that it's easy to find yourself feeling limited with your options of what to make. I used to feel nervous about cooking with new and even newish ingredients, always choosing to look up recipes as opposed to creating my own. A few months ago I decided to change my perspective on how to look at these new ingredients. Instead of seeing my options as limited, I chose to look at it as an opportunity for experimentation! This new perspective was what helped me to create this awesome side, Quinoa with Kale and Hot Italian Sausage. Still familiarizing myself with both quinoa and kale, I had no recipe in my repertoire using the two together, nor could I think of anything similar where I could substitute in one of the two ingredients, in place of something else. It's at this moment that you can look at this as a dilemma or an opportunity. In this day and age, our answer to most dilemmas is the internet. Hit up Google, and do a quick search on "quinoa and kale" and I'm sure you'll find plenty of recipes that you can easily replicate in your own kitchen. But just like choosing to take the longer, but more scenic route home, choosing to do a quick search in your own fridge as opposed to the internet, will be more challenging, yet more rewarding in the end. And this quick search in my fridge was all I needed to find my quinoa with kale inspiration.
I immediately found one hot Italian sausage that had to be used up, which I knew would taste great with the quinoa and kale. Now all I really needed was something to "dress" the quinoa with, and a few more little flavour enhancers. With a jar of store-bought pesto sauce reaching its final days in the fridge, I knew I had my dressing. Following my instinct and tasting every single step of the way, I ended up with a side that I am so incredibly proud to call my own! Full of flavour, and packed with tons of health benefits, I was so excited that I had created this dish with not two, but three unfamiliar ingredients! Although I had never used Umami paste before, nor had I even tried tasting it before, I figured, what better time to give it a chance! Umami paste, which is made primarily of spiced tomatoes and anchovies puréed, is known as "the fifth taste" as it is distinct from the four other tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. I didn't want the pesto to overwhelm the other flavours in the dish, so Umami paste was a great way to find the balance I was looking for. Umami paste isn't something that most people have on hand yet (although I would recommend picking some up!), so you can easily substitute that out, taste it and add more pesto sauce, lemon juice, or something else to your liking. Trusting both my instinct and my palette, as well as mustering up my confidence, was all I needed to create a successful dish in unfamiliar territory. The next time you're faced with a cooking challenge, forced or interested in trying out a new ingredient, take a chance on yourself! Take that risk and prove to yourself that you can find the answer to your kitchen dilemma on your own, no "googling" necessary. And hey, what's the worst that can happen if you don't succeed? You have three meals a day each and every day to make up for it, but this time around you have the advantage of applying your knowledge of what didn't work out the last time around. So now I want to know, what's an unfamiliar ingredient that you've taken a chance on in your kitchen? Was the experience as rewarding for you as it was for me? Let's share!
Ingredients:1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, puréed or minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 uncooked hot italian sausage
1 cup Cookin' Greens Frozen Kale
1 tsp umami paste (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp pesto
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
lemon juice, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1. In a small pot, pour in the quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to low heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet at medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begins to soften. Cut one end of the casing of the sausage and squeeze out the insides straight into the skillet. Break up the pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon, and cook until sausage begins to colour and crisp slightly.
3. In a separate small skillet or saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil, reduce heat down to medium and add the kale. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any remaining water.
4. Pour the sausage and onion mixture into the cooked quinoa. Stir in the cooked kale, umami paste, pesto, lemon juice and zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and additional lemon juice if needed. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot or warm.