15 September 2012

Today is reveal day for the Eating The Alphabet Challenge.  This month we had to chose a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or legume that began with the letters P, Q, or R.  Three options!  Lots of choices there.

While I was really, really tempted to do something with pumpkin, I resisted in favor of cooking with something I had never cooked before.  Which, for me, is the whole point of this challenge.  As you have probably noticed, quinoa recipes are everywhere right now.  It's probably the most popular food on blogs right now.  While quinoa isn't technically a grain, (it's actually a seed), I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it.  I don't know why I haven't tried it before; I guess I just needed that little nudge!  Of course, there were thousands of recipes to choose from.  I looked for one that would be a great way to introduce quinoa to my family.  One that had flavor profiles we were already used to, to keep things simple.  After much searching, I found a recipe for Quinoa Pilaf with Crimini Mushrooms on the Food Network site. That sounded right up my alley.  I changed it just slightly; here's my adaptation.

Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf

2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 (8 oz.) pkg cremini, or mini bella, mushrooms, chopped
1½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
Salt, to taste

Heat a large skillet on high heat.  Add the olive oil and swirl it around to make sure the entire surface is covered with oil. Add the shallot and sweat (cook until translucent but not brown). Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until brown. Add the quinoa, thyme, and bay leaf to the pan and stir. Let the ingredients heat up and toast a little to bring out all their fullest flavors. 

Slowly and carefully add the beef broth (it will spatter because the pan and ingredients are hot). When it comes to full boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat, remove lid and fluff the quinoa and then allow to sit for about 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.  Serve warm.

Makes 4-6 servings.

The few changes I made from the original include: increasing the mushrooms by a whole lot, using dried thyme instead of fresh, and using beef broth instead of vegetable.  I think beef broth works really well in mushroom dishes.  But definitely use vegetable broth if you want this to be vegetarian.

The quinoa I used said that it didn't need to be rinsed.  Check the package before doing that step.

This dish was a hit with my family.  My husband and four-year-old loved it, and I think my 2-year-old would have loved it too, but she didn't actually try it.  I think the mushrooms threw her off.  She didn't touch it for the longest time, then she picked up a mushroom.  She put it in her mouth and looked at me like, "Eww, what did I just put in my mouth?"  I encouraged her to eat it, telling her how yummy it was, and she did.  Then she decided that she loved mushrooms, and picked them all out of her quinoa and ate them, leaving the quinoa behind.  So, I can't say that she didn't like the quinoa, because she didn't try it.  I'll definitely get her to try it next time.

I loved it!  Quinoa definitely has a unique texture.  I've heard it described as "chewy", but I'm not sure that accurately describes it.  It has more of a bite to it than rice or couscous.  And it has a nice, nutty flavor.  I ate the leftovers as my entire lunch the next day and was fully satisfied.  Quinoa is a great alternative to rice or couscous because it is loaded with fiber and is a great source of protein.  It has definitely become a pantry staple in my house! I can't wait to try more quinoa recipes.

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  1. This dish looks delicious! I have lately been replacing rice with quinoa in almost anything. I will have to give this one a try!

  2. Yum I love mushrooms! I would replace the beef broth with veggie broth because we're vegetarian but this looks like a tasty dish. I'd love if you came and shared at my healthy food link party! http://www.youngnesters.net/2012/09/snacktime-saturday-week-3.html