Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lemony Summer Quinoa Pilaf and Ricotta Tart

I love lemon. I worked for a year or so on a Perfect Lemon Square recipe because the other recipes I tried weren't lemon-y enough. I frequently make mini cheesecakes with pure lemon curd on top. And I love roasting asparagus with lemon and garlic. The smell, the taste, the vibrant yellow color. Everything about lemons just make me happy. ANYWHO, I've been working on modifying two recipes that were fine on their own but weren't quite right for me.

Let's start with a wonderfully simple and delicious quinoa pilaf. Now, I have a history with quinoa. It was regularly served for lunch at my old job. I tried and tried and tried but I just couldn't make myself like it. This recipe changed all that. Even making this recipe makes me love it. You cook everything in one pot, then toss the hot quinoa and spinach with garlic, olive oil, goat cheese, and lemon juice and zest and the whole room immediately smells delicious. 

The original recipe came from Food 52. I made a lot of substitutions just based on price. I didn't want to go out and buy toasted walnut oil or pine nuts because they're expensive, so I substituted olive oil and toasted walnuts instead. I used garlic instead of scallions because I wanted to use what was on hand, and I love garlic. I used chicken stock instead of salted water to cook the quinoa for added flavor, and I used spinach instead of kale because I just don't like kale. It's too tough for me.

The resulting recipe came out fantastic. The melted goat cheese makes the pilaf creamy and bursting with lemon flavor. It's easy, fresh, and can serve as a side dish or a meal all on its own. Alright, enough stalling. Now on to the good stuff: dessert!

The original recipe was for a lime ricotta tart. I made it as the recipe stated but it was a little bland for my taste, and the texture of the ground almonds threw me for a loop, but I liked the idea of using ricotta as the base. I re-made it with lemons instead of limes, added lemon juice to the filling, and omitted the ground almonds (which were pricey anyway). 

I don't own a tart pan. It's one of those specialty kitchen items that just takes up space in your cabinets and rarely, if ever, gets used. I used a 9 inch cake pan instead and it worked out just fine. The crust is like a buttery shortbread. It's slightly sweet and has a hint of lemon zest infused within it. The filling is smooth and cool. Almost like a lighter version of a cheesecake. I even used fat free ricotta cheese, so it's light in texture and in calories! Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

I hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as I did. Happy eating!

One Pot Spinach and Quinoa Pilaf


2 cups chicken stock
1 cup quinoa
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup toasted walnuts
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper


1. Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let summer for 15 minutes, or until all stock is absorbed and quinoa is firm but tender. If the quinoa still has a white center, add a bit of more water and all to cook a bit longer. Top with the spinach and re-cover. Then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine the lemon juice, the zest, garlic, olive oil, toasted walnuts and goat cheese.

3. When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Lemon Ricotta Tart


Tart crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup cold diced butter
2 egg yolks
Grated zest from 1 lemon
~5 tbsp iced water

Ricotta Lemon Filling
15 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
3 whole eggs
2 egg whites
Grated zest from 2 lemons
Juice from 2 lemons (1/4 cup?)

Powdered sugar


Tart Crust
  1. In a food processor add the flour, sugar, butter, egg yolks and lemon zest. Pulse a few times until it resembles fine crumbs
  2. Gently add enough water to make a smooth dough (about 5 tbsp of iced water).
  3. With your fingers press the crust on the bottom and all side of a 11” tart pan.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, heat the oven to 350F.

Ricotta Lemon Filling
  1. In a mixing bowl beat the ricotta and sugar until just combined.
  2. Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Add the lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour the filling into the chilled crust.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 55 minutes or until slightly golden
  6. Cool the tart at room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Can also be served chilled.

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