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Red Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf

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Do you know quinoa (kEEn-wah)? If not, you should! It’s definitely a superfood, being a complete protein that’s also rich in fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, and other vital minerals. It’s not actually a grain as it appears, but rather the seed of a dark leafy Kale-like green.

The ancient Incas relied on it as a staple of their diet, and it is becoming more and more readily available in U.S. grocers. I like the red quinoa, as this version is not bitter, and cooks in under 20 minutes (which is really quick compared to other whole-grain options for your dinner table). Here’s some more scoop on its many nutritional benefits and options on how to use it.

Quinoa is inexpensive, shelf-stable for a long time, fairly quick-cooking, and takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked or served with. You can use it in everything from breakfast cereal to casseroles. Most often, I make an Asian-style side dish with quinoa, red peppers, cilantro, edamame, and snow peas, in a soy, ginger and peanut sauce. (I’ll share that recipe soon – I promise!)

Last night, I decided to change it up and serve a quinoa and mushroom pilaf as a side dish to steak and arugula salad. It all came together in less than 30 minutes and even my kids chomped it right up! The nutty, savory quinoa was a really nice compliment to the peppery, slightly bitter arugula, and the steak brought out the best in both dishes. I didn’t really follow a recipe, but here’s how I made the dish:

Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf

Ingredients

1 cup red quinoa
1 1/3 cups reduced sodium beef broth (you could use vegetable broth too)
2 tsp olive oil

1 cup chopped mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. First, rinse the quinoa well in cold water. This will remove bitterness, and any debris that may be packed in with the grain. Set aside.
  2. Saute the chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the broth, whole sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf and raise the heat to high, bringing to a boil.
  3. Add the quinoa and the rosemary, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until liquid is all absorbed and the quinoa is to your desired texture. It should be nutty and fairly soft but still a bit al dente.
  4. Remove from heat and take out the bay leaf and the thyme stems. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and the chopped fresh parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!!

This is a filling, flavor-packed and highly nutritious alternative to rice or potatoes that your family will love. You can change out the herbs and types of broth for other flavor profiles easily and serve it with a wide variety of proteins and salads or cooked vegetables for many different meals. For a delicious vegetarian option, use vegetable broth instead of the beef broth and serve with sauteed tofu and a bed of cooked greens. Yum!

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About Daphne Wotherspoon