Asparagus + Chicken + Quinoa = the Beauty of One

I just returned from a multiple city trip to look at colleges for my daughter.  Though we ate fabulous restaurant meals, I found myself longing for fresh, simple food centered on the seasonal produce I find here in the Bay Area.  One of the college students we ate with was a California girl living in the heart of NYC who wanted some fast, fresh meal ideas.
quinoa, asparagus, chickenIt’s a challenge to make good meals in a tiny kitchen, especially for young cooks with limited time and small budgets.  One pot meals can be a good way to tackle this problem.  Consider the different ingredients individually, then layer them into the cooking pot based on their cooking needs.  I call it The Beauty of One.

Start with one flavorful vegetable to star in the dish, one protein source, one grain or starch, and one aromatic (onion, garlic, etc), then add personality with spices and herbs.  Keeping your vegetable selections seasonal will help keep your budget in check, and the the flavors fresh.  It is officially Spring, so that means heavenly green asparagus has arrived in the markets.  I know that asparagus pairs well with delicate chicken breast.  Add some nutty quinoa to round things out, and flavor with fresh pepper and marjoram.  Voila – a beauty of a one pot meal.

Asparagus + Chicken + Quinoa =  the Beauty of One
(serves 3 – 4)

1 large leek, rinsed and diced
3 TB olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch pieces
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock or water
1 big bunch fresh asparagus, stems trimmed, cut into bite size pieces
fresh ground pepper
sprig or two of fresh marjoram or oregano (optional)

Heat a skillet on medium until hot.  Add 2 TB olive oil ans saute the leeks for a minute, then cover and sweat for 2 minutes.  Remove cover, add the quinoa and stock.  Stir, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove cover, add chicken breast pieces and stir to bury the chicken in the cooking quinoa.  Cover and simmer for 4 minutes.  Remove cover, add asparagus pieces and stir.  Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Check for seasoning, then serve with another drizzle of olive oil, a couple grinds of pepper, and some fresh herbs.