Quinoa Pilaf

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Have you ever cooked with quinoa? It’s a South American grain-like seed that one prepares in a fashion similar to rice, simmered in water until the liquid is all absorbed. I first started cooking with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) when I lived in San Francisco years ago. It has this wonderful nutty flavor, that actually doesn’t need much added to it; I used to make a quick batch, pour on some flax seed oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and gobble it up. If you have never tried it, I encourage you to track some down. It’s inexpensive, easy to make, tastes great, and is surprisingly high in protein. For those of us who are sensitive to the gluten in wheat or barley, it’s entirely gluten-free. You can find it at Trader Joe’s or at Whole Foods.

The following is a quinoa pilaf recipe based on one given to me by my friend Steve. The first time I made it I thought I would improve upon it by using chicken stock in place of the water. Bad idea. The pilaf ended up tasting like chicken stock, not quinoa. All of the lovely nuttiness of the quinoa was drowned out by the chicken flavor. This time I stayed with water, and instead added fresh herbs from our garden, and a just-picked lemon cucumber. I served it cold, more like a pilaf salad, though it would work warm too.

Do you have a favorite quinoa recipe? If so, I would love to hear about it.

Quinoa Pilaf Recipe

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  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Once you've cooked the quinoa as instructed, feel free to improvise a bit on the add-ins. I chose mint, basil, chives, and cucumber for this recipe, but you could just as easily go with parsley, green onions, chopped fresh red bell pepper.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or Thai basil*
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (or green onions including the greens)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

* Best way to chop basil or mint is to chiffonade it by rolling up the leaves like a cigar and slicing crosswise from the end.

Method

1 Place quinoa in a large sieve and rinse it until the water runs clear. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat in a 3-4 quart pot. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, but not browned. Add the drained quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally for a couple more minutes. You can let some of the quinoa get a little toasted.

2 Add 4 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low so that the quinoa and water are simmering while the pot is partially covered (enough to let out some steam). Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and put into a large serving bowl. Fluff up with a fork.

3 Let cool until just slightly warm, add 2-3 more tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in chopped mint, basil, chives, and cucumber. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Links:
Heidi's quinoa recipes - from 101 Cookbooks
Quinoa with summer vegetables from Karina of Karina's Kitchen
More quinoa recipes from Karina
Quinoa salad with tomatoes, feta, and parsley - from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry
Quinoa-stuffed zucchini - from Green Lite Bites
Quinoa Salad with Dried Apricots and Currants from Sarah of LettuceEatKale

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Showing 4 of 78 Comments

  • Mary Morris

    This is a great starter recipe, and variations of it have become a new summer staple in our household. For color and flavor, instead of cooking bell pepper with the quinoa, I like to add fresh sweet red bell pepper, that compliments the fresh greens that I add after the quinoa is cooked and has cooled. Instead of pine nuts, which are expensive, I have been using slivered blanched almonds, which I toast in a sautee pan, adding flavor and texture. For seasoning, along with the salt and pepper, I add fresh squeezed lime juice and a bit more olive oil. A very satisfying dish that goes well with sliced melon and barbequed chicken or steak on a hot summer evening.

  • Purvis

    This was wonderful. I made this pretty much as written (fresh herbs included) except with red quinoa. It tasted moist and substantial, with the herbs contributing it a nice freshness, and the quinoa giving it a deliciously unique texture and taste. Usually my husband adds lemon, spices or hot sauce to everything I make to add flavor, but he didn’t think this needed anything–it was perfectly balanced.

  • Jessica Whistman

    We tried quinoa for the first time the other night in this absolutely delicious side dish with some chicken my dad made using the leftover brine from our turkey. The quinoa salad contained mostly quinoa, but also fresh chopped mangoes, a few handfuls of craisins, and some chopped fresh parsley, and was tossed with a vinaigrette… the combination (to me at least) was DELICIOUS, and I don’t usually like anything with vinaigrettes. My dad found the recipe in an old spiral bound cookbook my mom had and I probably liked it the best of anyone, and I like the least healthy food of anyone in the house, haha.

  • love to cook

    My family’s favorite quinoa recipe: after quinoa is cooked, I put it in a small baking dish, add 1 small can of chopped green chilis, 1/2 can chopped jalapenos, 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream and a handful of grated mexican cheese and mix everything together, then add a sprinkle of the grated cheese on top. I bake it at 350 for about 10 min, until the cheese is melted.

    I should have this recipe printed on cards, because everyone that comes over and eats it ask for the recipe before they leave!

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