Quinoa, Part I

Last week, my good friend Liz (and by good friend, I mean she’s standing up in my wedding) asked me to improve on a quinoa risotto recipe that she had at a restaurant and has been trying to recreate at home. The recipe sounded intriguing; quinoa given the risotto treatment. A very cool idea, indeed. So I bought quinoa in bulk — large, Costo-esque packages. I made the risotto last week. Then I made it again on Sunday. And I’m going to make it one more time before posting it, next time perhaps with asparagus, since I’ve been thinking that would be a nice touch for spring.

Then Charlie, a good family friend (and by good family friend, I mean he and his wife are singing in my wedding) shared with me his “fried quinoa” creation — a quinoa dish that’s essentially given the fried rice treatment. He uses red quinoa, which I imagine would work quite nicely here, and adds it cooked to fried chickpeas and mushrooms until it’s crisped up a bit. So when I came home from class last night tired, hungry and lacking in the fresh produce department, I grabbed the quinoa I had left over from my risotto, a can of chickpeas, some mushrooms from the fridge, and some fresh basil I happened to have on hand for a pasta dish I knew wasn’t going to happen. Within minutes — maybe 15 or so — I had a delicious dinner. Charlie, you came through big for me with this one. I hope I did your dish justice here.

Then there was yesterday’s Vegan at Heart mission: to read about quinoa (see, these missions are really painlessly easy). The final send-off? “Impress someone with your knowledge of quinoa this week.” Well, I don’t know if I’m going to impress you folks with my knowledge this week, though I’m thinking I might have a chance at impressing you with Liz and Charlie’s quite impressive quinoa dishes.

Has the universe been telling me to post some quinoa recipes, or what?

This one’s simple and easy, but thouroughly delicious. Try red quinoa, as Charlie uses, a variety of mushrooms, or other vegetables. I used basil, since I had it on hand, but I imagine other herbs and spices might be just as nice — or you could use none at all. I have a feeling this is one of those dishes that could be great with a million and one variations.

Tip: cook quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water.

Fried Quinoa:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

Salt to taste


1. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and cumin and add to a hot skillet or stir-fry pan. Toss for a few minutes (2-3) over high heat, or until browned on the outside. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until most of the oil is absorbed and mushrooms are slightly soft.

2. Add cooked quinoa and toss with the other ingredients until quinoa is dry and begins to get crisp as it comes off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and toss in fresh basil, plus enough salt to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon).


  1. says

    I JUST bought some Quinoa and plan to start experimenting with it. Oh, the hot cereal form of Quinoa is very good with cinnamon, a dash of rice milk, apple sauce (or any kind of fruit. I make combo sauces in the crock pot sometimes) and a bit of maple syrup! Delicious.

  2. says

    I recently saw (on Iron Chef America) a rice pudding equivalent (actually it was a kheer equivalent) made with quinoa and milk and such.
    Quite interesting – I hadn’t thought of it in the oatmeal / rice pudding kind of direction before, but I may have to try that too.

  3. Beth says

    Dana — mmm. I used to make quinoa in the mornings with almond butter and almond milk, plus some cinnamon and raisins. It’s better than oatmeal — and with protein!! I would LOVE to know how you make applesauce/fruit sauce in the crock pot. Homemade applesauce might be one of my favorite things in the world. mmmm.

    Charlie — it’s really good! Thanks again for the great idea here.

  4. says

    Yay, we’re on the same page with quinoa. I love it and it’s sooo healthy. Basil is an all-time favorite of mine, good idea adding it to quinoa. That’s a new one for me. I’ll try it.

    Lovely blog you have. I just sent your link to my daughter. She’s be thrilled with your NYC restaurant list. She just moved to Brooklyn about 4 months ago and has many of the same food issues you do. :-)


  5. Liz says

    Love it! It’s looking to be a quinoa week for me. I have all the ingredients for this and likely for the upcoming risotto. I’ve also been drinking almond milk lately (turns out I might have a dairy and soy allergy. Who knew?) so maybe I’ll try the oatmeal substitute? YAY thanks Bethie!

  6. Beth says

    Melissa — love your site as well. And for the record, I think the current quinoa cake pic is great!!! Please do send the restaurant list to your daughter — and have her let me know if there are any places she’s tried and liked, in Brooklyn or otherwise. I’m always looking for new places to try. The basil was sort of by accident (or default, due to an empty fridge), but I ended up loving it. Makes sense, since I’m also a big fan of Thai fried rice. Looking forward to following your lovely blog from now on.

    Liz — Yay! Congrats on the inaugural comment. Your risotto was even better the second time I made it, but the picture didn’t turn out (my new blue-ish bowls tinted everything else blue as well). Have you tried the vanilla almond milk? That one’s my favorite. And thank YOU.

  7. says

    Mmmmmm….this looks good. I need to try this again. I didn’t like it the first time I tried it…I thought it was bitter (and that was a few years ago) but I’m thinking it was probably because I didn’t rinse it??? What is it supposed to taste like?

  8. Beth says

    Ari — yes, not rinsing it would make it taste bitter. That’s probably part of it. I should mention that you’re supposed to rinse it here, huh? It doesn’t have much of a taste, but is sort of nutty — like couscous, maybe? Give it another try! : )

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