Quinoa Pilaf


Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is naturally gluten-free.  While considered a whole grain, it’s actually a seed.  It’s a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids, making it a great choice. Quinoa provides iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins B6 and E, and is an excellent source of fiber.  It cooks in just 15 minutes and can be used like rice or couscous in salads, stews, soup, chili, stir- fries, pilafs, or as a cereal.  It comes in several varieties and is simple to prepare.  The taste and texture of plain quinoa reminds me of a cross between brown rice and oatmeal. It’s fluffy, chewy and somewhat nutty, all rolled into one.

Be sure to always rinse your quinoa well before preparing to remove the bitter-tasting coating called saponin on each seed that protects it from being eaten by birds in the field.

This recipe (from Giada De Laurentiis) takes a little more effort than most of my posted quinoa recipes, but I think it’s worth it.

Vegetarian version:  use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth

Vegan version: use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  If concerned about the wine not being vegan, here is a vegan wine guide:  www.vegans.frommars.org/wine


4 servings


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 4 small shallots, chopped
1 small red pepper, stemmed, seeded, deveined and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1 ½ cups quinoa
¼ cup white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 packed cup arugula, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch pieces
Zest of 1 lemon


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan or a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 5 minutes. Make a space in the center of the vegetables and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with oil, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer until all of the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Keep covered and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the arugula, almonds, mint, cucumber and lemon zest and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

cook’s notes

To toast the almonds, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before using.


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