Wish Upon A Dish: Quinoa and Pineapple Casserole with Latin Flavors

June 21, 2013

Quinoa and Pineapple Casserole with Latin Flavors

I cleaned out my pantry this week. Yes, it is a good thing but it's also an awakening.
How many of us inevitably find duplicates and sometimes triplicates of food products hiding behind recently purchased foods and since we all forget what's on those shelves, go to the store and buy more?

What's funnier yet, they were all for the same recipe that still hasn't been made.

Such was my situation when I found three cans of pineapple. One crushed, one chopped and one with slices.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the 6 pack of pineapple juice?

Maybe 15 years ago and 20 less pounds, I had to keep a continuous supply in the house for my favorite, but soooo very bad for you, Pina Colada's. I looked forward to the brain freeze that always followed my gluttonous first sip. Nowadays I treat myself to one a year but the brain freeze is a fond memory. Even though I might not make Pina Colada's nowadays, my love of pineapple has not changed, it just went in a different direction.
I could eat a whole half a fresh pineapple but my mouth always yells at me when I try. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down the protein in meat, like your tongue. Remember when your Mother told you that Jello won't set if your fruit cocktail had pineapple in it? Gelatin is made of meat protein so the pineapple stops it from doing it's job.

I think I have included pineapple in three hot dishes since then, and I'm not sure why. I always knew it was healthy but what did I really know about pineapple? I knew it contained a 100% of Vitamin C, a dabble of A & E and there's some maganese in there, too. Oh, it's also fat-free and has 0 cholesterol.
I have heard bloggers talk about using pineapple juice as a tenderizer in marinades. Time for some serious research and this next statement blew my tenderizer theory to hell.

Cooked or canned pineapple does not have a tenderizing effect, as the enzymes are heat-labile and destroyed in the cooking process.

It all comes down to this: Use fresh pineapple for marinades where the fruit is needed to tenderize. If you only have canned pineapple and you need a tenderizer, just add vinegar, it will do the job.

I created this dish to combine two recipes into a great accompaniment to grilled chicken that has a Tex-Mex infusion into a southern comfort, centuries old baked pineapple casserole.
Pineapples were originally discovered in the West Indies and brought to Florida. Eventually the sugar cane business took over the islands and Florida, which was the demise of the pineapple until it was taken to Hawaii where it is still grown. The import of Hawaiian pineapple is no longer big business and they grow only what they eat there. Now, the Philippines grow most of the world's pineapple crop.

I never know the outcome of some of my weird creations, we all like to think that they will be perfect, but I will admit, this was probably the UGLIEST dish I ever made.

But wait, I said ugly, not poo-poo tasting.

It is one of those dishes that if you close your eyes, you will actually taste something really good. One recipe I found called for toasting the quinoa in a dry skillet.
Note: What made this casserole brown was the addition of cumin and buckwheat honey to the chicken broth.

Next time I make this dish I will eliminate all brown ingredients.
This was a side to Ancho & Lime Glazed Chicken Thighs. Perfect!

Quinoa & Pineapple Casserole with Latin Flavors
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

* 1 cup quinoa
* 2 teaspoons canola oil
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies
* 1/4 cup pepitas, toasted
* 3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
* 1/2 cup chopped scallions
* 2 tablespoons lime juice
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 (14oz) can chicken broth
* 1 medium can (about 14oz) crushed pineapple, drained, reserving juice
* 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
* 2 eggs beaten
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon cumin (see note above)

1. Toast the quioa in a dry skillet till lightly brown and fragrant (smells like popcorn is cooking) 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a sieve and rinse thoroughly (make sure the holes in the sieve are smaller than the quinoa seeds).
2. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add onion, reserved pineapple juice and honey. Reduce by half.
3. Add chiles and garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Add quinoa, broth, cumin and broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Add pepitas, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla cornstarch, salt and eggs.
5. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes until the center is set.

Review: It has the consistency of a baked egg dish, light and souffle-like, it is slightly sweet but with a ton of flavor.

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