Have you heard? It’s raining in LA.  I am sure my readers in Canada and New York and Chicago and Utah and Montana and Michigan and… everywhere else outside California, with real, snowy winters of your own, may not consider several consecutive days of rain in Southern California to be newsworthy, but around here it’s quite the story.  In a land where “winter” is marked by blooming camelias and perpetual tans, a bit of a drizzle on the Golden Globes’ red carpet is practically unthinkable.


I miss seasons.  When our rain finally comes, I revel in it.  The towering eucalyptus trees across the street broadcast their mossy, lilting scent over our house whenever a gust of wind wafts through their rainsoaked branches.  As I climb the stairs to our front door on a rainy night, I marvel at the scent, thinking this is what every candle and fabric softener has tried to mimic with fragrance names like eucalyptus rain.


Evenings this week have been chilly and damp as the storms wax and wane.  It’s perfect weather for a bowl full of something rich and spicy.  The kind of thing you’d describe as rib-sticking.  I’ve been particularly enamored with quinoa recently, and find it to be a lovely base for this quick, spicy chicken stew.  You might not use all the quinoa you’ll make here – toss leftovers with the ingredients for a chickpea salad for a profoundly filling lunch.  Serve the stew with extra sriracha to keep your ribs warm as you watch your snow, your rain, or your camelias.

Spicy Chicken & Quinoa Stew

Serves 4

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (or chicken stock), divided
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
3 bay leaves
½ white onion, roughly chopped
1 T raw ginger, minced

2 T sesame oil
2 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
1 hearty squirt sriracha
1 t turmeric
1 carrot, sliced into thin disks
1 stalk celery, diced
4 medium white mushrooms, chopped
2 leaves kale, washed and roughly chopped


  • Poach the chicken
  • Cook the quinoa
  • Cook the vegetables until soft
  • Add the spices
  • Add the chicken and broth
  • Simmer until ready to serve


Bring the water and 2 cups of chicken broth to a simmer.  Add the chicken breasts, bay leaves, ginger, and onion.  Cover with parchment and simmer 12 minutes, skimming the business that floats to the surface after the first minute.  Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool.

While the chicken is simmering, bring 2 more cups of chicken broth to a boil over high heat in a clean saucepan.  Add the quinoa, stir, and cover.  Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer 12 minutes or until the liquid is primarily absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping the lid intact, and set aside.

Using two forks, shred the chicken into small pieces. If you prefer, you can chop the chicken with a chef’s knife or kitchen shears.  Whatever you choose, make sure you have something resembling bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium dutch oven (or other heavy pot with a lid that will hold everything) over medium-high heat.  Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook 3 minutes until slightly softened. Stir the rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sriracha and turmeric together in a small bowl before adding to the vegetables.  Stir to combine.  Add the chicken and remaining vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the kale. Cover, and cook for at least 5 minutes until the kale is nicely wilted.  If you are starting your quinoa late (or just need a little extra time), reduce the heat to low and keep covered until you are ready to serve in bowls, over a bed of quinoa.