By Joanne Bruno | August 22, 2011

Photo: Joanne Bruno

Now that I’ve stopped eating meat, my mother thinks it’s a really fun game to barrage me with as many ridiculous questions as possible about my diet whenever I speak to her.

“Do you eat chicken?”

“But you must eat chicken sometimes?”

“Chicken doesn’t really count as meat, does it?”

(Ummm, yeah.  She’s kind of obsessed with chicken.)

My favorite question that I get asked, not just by her, but by almost everyone that I encounter is, “Where do you get all your protein from?”

There’s this misconception in western society that we need to eat at least half a pound of meat at every meal in order to achieve the recommended daily intake, and that a plant-based diet couldn’t possibly suffice.  This is completely untrue, especially with the great sources of plant and dairy protein that are readily available (and cheap), such as legumes, Greek yogurt, and quinoa.  I make sure to eat a bit of each of these every day, but quinoa is an especial favorite because it’s a complete protein, meaning that it contains an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids, even those that are predominantly found in animal proteins.

Perfect for vegetarians but also great for an omnivore who wants to eat a nutritious meatless meal every once in a while, this summer vegetable stir fry with quinoa combines just about every vegetable available under the sun right now with this perfect protein.  Bathed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette, it is fresh flavored, light, and extremely delicious.  Hand your mother a bowl of it and the ridiculous questions might even stop for a few minutes as she shoves spoonful after spoonful into her mouth.  At least, that’s the hope.

Photo: Joanne Bruno

Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

Summer Vegetable Stir Fry with Quinoa Recipe

Servings: 4


  • 1 eggplant, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini,chopped
  • 1 summer squash, chopped
  • 4 cubanelle peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled


1. Optional - toss chopped eggplant with 1 tsp salt in a medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse and drain eggplant. Pat dry. This will make the eggplant taste less bitter but is not necessary (I didn't do it).

2. Cook quinoa in salted water, according to package directions.

3. While quinoa is cooking, whisk 1 tbsp olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and carrots. Stir fry 3 minutes. Add zucchini, summer squash, peppers, onion and garlic. Stir fry until veggies are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add quinoa and oil/vinegar mixture. Stir fry 1 minute. Add basil and mint. Remove from heat. Stir in pine nuts and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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