Martin and I both love quinoa.  For me, I think it’s a matter of pronounciation … it just sounds so exciting!  Quinoa.  Keen-wah.  KEEEEEEEEN-WAH.  For Martin, I think his reasoning is more practical:  he loves all the health benefits and food-awesomeness that this little grain contains.  I bet eating it makes him think to himself, “I’m doing good by my body.  GO ME.”

And it really is amazing that this little grain can contain so much.  It’s a great source of protein and has a balanced set of amino acids, making it a great complete protein source.  It also is jam packed with fiber, is gluten-free and easy to digest.

And on top of that, quinoa has this super fluffy texture when cooked, which is great for when you want a nutritious but light side dish.  Sometimes, it is hard to find recipes to use quinoa in … I don’t always feel comfortable substituting it for rice or some other kind of grain, depending on the dish.  I worry that bogging down the quinoa in excessive liquids, like in casseroles or soups, will just create a sort of paste-y, undesirable texture (and remember, mouthfeel = key!).

So while I still figure out this thing called quinoa, I’ve been trying to stick to recipes and I’ve been surprised at the lack of recipes around.  Despite there not being very many, they’re also mostly variations of the same: prepare like rice, add vegetables or proteins, serve.

This dish, Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms, is actually no exception, but I think it paired really well with the salmon to create an overall healthy and filling dinner.  You can’t tell in my poorly shot, fuzzy camera photo (though you wouldn’t have been able to in a well shot, sharply focused photo too), but there are actually mushrooms and shallots in there.  Let’s just say I got a little too enthusiastic with the chopping.  🙂  Note how my quinoa looks nothing like the quinoa on the recipe page.  Oops!

This was really quick to prepare and, on a night that I had a late evening phone call and started dinner later than usual, that is a plus.  I believe I pulled this dinner together in about 40 minutes and that is only because the quinoa took 25 minutes to absorb off all the liquid (rather than the called for 15) and 10 minutes to rest.

Another note: quinoa is coated in saponins, which will create a bitter taste if not removed.  Cookbooks will tell you to soak it for awhile, pour off the water, re-soak and pour off the water again before boiling.  In my haste to cook the quinoa, I forgot to soak it, but the taste still came out fine.  I just read that most commercially sold quinoa in the US is pre-soaked to remove this coating, so that must have been the case for my quinoa.

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