Published May 31, 2012 - Last Updated January 22, 2021
I only blog about recipes that I love, but I’m never totally sure which dishes will resonate with my readers. It’s kind of a guessing game, wondering which recipes you’ll like more than others. I was surprised to discover how many people love my Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls. That recipe has been pinned over 187,000 times on Pinterest to date! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tasty recipe; I just didn’t realize how strongly readers would connect with it. I suppose the fact that it’s fast, easy, vegetarian, gluten free and healthy had something to do with it. Knowing how much you liked the Burrito Bowls, I came up with another simple and healthy quinoa bowl inspired by a different region of the world– Southern Italy.
Mediterranean herbs and vegetables are a joy to cook with. I based this quinoa bowl on a summery Italian dish called Ciambotta (pronounced “chambot”). Ciambotta is a classic vegetable stew that originated in Southern Italy. It became a popular dish with Italian American immigrants because it could be made quickly and affordably. The word ciambotta is also Italian slang for “a big mess.” I’m guessing this is because the stew is a mish-mosh of ingredients; it’s one of those “clean out your produce drawer” kind of dishes. Most ciambotta recipes include a base of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Different Italian regions add their own unique touches… the Sicilians add greens, Puglians add fish, Neopolitans add boiled beef and chili pepper. For my Italian Vegetable Quinoa Bowl, I’ve kept the ciambotta mixture vegetarian, adding beans to the mix (like a minestrone) for added protein and a hearty texture. I also added a touch of cayenne for heat, since many variations of ciambotta include hot chili peppers. You could alternatively use red pepper flakes for the same effect.
The great thing about ciambotta is how adaptable it is. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, there are endless spices and ingredients you can add to make it your own. Add olives or capers for saltiness, bell peppers for sweetness, green beans for bulk, or summer squash if you’ve got an excess of garden veggies to use up. I really love the aromatic flavor of fresh basil and a touch of oregano, but you could certainly take liberties with the spicing to create your own unique flavors. Ciambotta is very forgiving.
Using fresh, ripe vegetables is key to this recipe. While the ingredients may seem simple, using fresh garlic, ripe summer tomatoes, zucchini, and fresh basil really makes the flavors pop. This dish is gluten free, low fat, and heart healthy. It’s vegan without the cheese, vegetarian with (if you’re eating meat-free and using parmesan make sure it’s made with a vegetarian rennet). Next time your neighbor offers you their extra garden zucchini, tomatoes, or eggplant, say “yes, thank you” and give this recipe a try. Your heart and taste buds will thank you.
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Middione, Carlo (1987). The Food of Southern Italy. William Morrow & Co; New York, NY.
Scicolone, Michele. “Make It Your Way: Ciambotta.” Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2001.
Thanks for stopping by! I am fascinated by the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Read more...