Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf
As luck would have it, the New York Times published a piece on quinoa just a few days ago and made it clear that while the grain is growing in popularity here in the states, the rising demand for it has made it impossible for Bolivians to purchase the grain that they’ve grown and eaten for hundreds of years.
I feel bad about this, but you guys should feel worse because hey: You voted for it!
No but seriously, I hope that either A) the quinoa trend will die down a bit and therefore the price will go down or B) the Bolivian government will find some way to subsidize the grain for their people so they can afford the grain they’ve lived on for so many years.
I have a feeling that B is more likely because, frankly, quinoa is really good and I expect that it’ll probably only increase in popularity as people catch on.
Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf
Yield: Serves 6.
1 1/2 Cups quinoa, rinsed
1 Cup vegetable stock
2 Cups frozen peas, 1 Cup for sauce and 1 for dish
1 clove garlic
1/4 Cup fresh mint, chopped
4 Tablespoons butter
1 large leek, white part only diced
3/4 Cups shallot, diced (1-2 large shallots)
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms (or any mushroom)
1 14-ounce bunch of asparagus, cut into sections
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce (opt.)
1) To make sauce, blend the stock, half the peas, a handful of mint, and a clove of garlic. Once it's smooth, set it aside for later.
2) To make quinoa, add 1 1/2 Cups of rinsed quinoa to 2 1/2 Cups boiling water. Cover and simmer for 15-17 minutes until quinoa is tender and cooked.
3) Dice leeks and shallots. Slice mushrooms thinly and chop asparagus into pieces.
4) Add butter to a large skillet and once melted, add leeks and shallots. Cook until veggies are soft, about 4-5 minutes.
5) Then add asparagus and mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until mushrooms are tender and asparagus is tender, but still slightly crunchy.
6) Once veggies are done, fold in quinoa, pea sauce, whole peas, and season with salt and pepper. Stir until pilaf is warmed through.
7) Serve with hot sauce!
Making the sauce
This dish has a very light pea-based sauce that gives the final dish a tiny bit of sweetness. It’s basically a really simple pea soup.
The sauce is pretty simple to make. Just add half of the peas, some vegetable stock, a good handful of mint, and a clove of garlic to a blender and blend it up until it’s smooth. Then just set it aside until later.
I used frozen peas for this dish and I think they work fine. No need to go through the trouble of shelling a bunch of peas for it.
I would like to think I was a leader in the quinoa world. I’ve been eating it for many years now and I can say that it’s definitely gone up in price. Almost ridiculously so. I think a bag will run you $4-$5 these days which is more expensive than most grains on the market.
I used to be able to get it wholesale for about $1/pound I think, but I don’t mind paying more for it. It’s still one of the best grains out there in my opinion.
The key to quinoa, and one that I’ve messed up a few times, is to make sure you don’t overcook it. If you do, it’ll turn really mushy and not good at all.
To cook 1 1/2 Cups of quinoa (what the recipe calls for), you’ll need about 2 1/2 Cups water. Bring it to a boil with a pinch of salt and then add the quinoa. Stir it and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes covered. That should be enough time for all the water to evaporate, but if there’s still any water, you can uncover the pot so it evaporates quickly.
You should end up with a really fluffy quinoa. The grains should still have some texture to them though.
The Other Stuff
There’s some great flavors in this dish besides the quinoa. Also included is some leeks and shallots which are a great substitute for the standard onion flavor.
If you’ve never chopped up a leek before, don’t fret. Chop off the green leaves, then slice the white part down the center. Under cold water, rinse off the leek halves being sure to get in between the layers of leek. There’s tons of dirt in there that you need to wash out. Then you can just dice up the leek like normal.
Also, you’ll need some mushrooms and asparagus. I used shiitake mushrooms which have a nice spring lightness to them, but you could use any mushroom you want really.
Asparagus isn’t optional in my opinion for this dish. It really makes it.
To start off the dish, add the butter to a large skillet. When it’s melted, add the shallots and leeks and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft. That’ll probably take 4-5 minutes.
Then add in the mushrooms and asparagus and continue to cook, stirring every once in awhile. Cook it down until the mushrooms are soft and the asparagus is cooked but still slightly crunchy. Mine cooked about 5 minutes and the asparagus was perfect.
Finally, fold in the quinoa, pea sauce, and whole peas. Stir this all together and once it is warmed through, it’s ready to serve. Season it with salt and pepper at this point. It’ll probably need a pinch of both.
Ok. I’ll be honest.
I liked this dish a lot. But I thought it needed something. That something was hot sauce.
Most things are better with hot sauce, but I thought this dish was a lot better with hot sauce.
Betsy liked it without though so do what you want.
But try it with hot sauce.