Playing pretend

This has been one long slog of a winter.  A few snow days here and there can be charming but after #7, you turn weary...and may start to lose it.  Snow-shoveling has been our predominant form of exercise (okay, more so for my husband) and I am just generally tired of feeling tired.
A picture from a few storms ago - our snow piles have reached a lot higher since
On the positive side, I'm really grateful we don't have any power outage issues this year.  We're lucky to be snug inside our home and I have plenty of time to putter in the kitchen so I won't complain too long.  At this point, I just have to resist the urge to sit or sleep all day in the face of all this continuous cold, snow, and ice.  I'm seriously ready for a change.  I know that this year, I will appreciate the warm seasons - when it eventually gets here - like never before!

There's a whole lot I miss about the spring and summer...the fresh produce, the farmer's market, the sunshine!  Not having to put on six layers of clothing to head outside would be amazing.  And I'm ready to crave lighter foods again, to put on t-shirts and open-toe shoes, to sit outside for a meal! Well, the time for all that is not quite nigh but I can pretend in the meantime...and I'm doing it with food.
This quinoa pilaf is one example.  It makes me think of spring and summer for some reason.  It's a lighter, vegetarian option, and the Asian influences of ginger, rice vinegar, mirin, and scallions make for bright flavors.  It also makes me think of this cold soba noodle I like making and stowing away in the fridge during the warm months.  

So while hearty stews, chili, big bowls of hot soup, and plenty of starch have been welcomed companions to these cold days and nights, I'm switching up my eating pattern a bit to cheer things up.  I've been buying grape tomatoes like it's in season and pretending my zucchini and (frozen) corn are fresh from the farmer's market.  Who says adults can't play pretend!


I caught sight of this recipe from America's Test Kitchen's facebook page right around New Years.  I guess it was the time for healthier recipes.  It had a catch line, saying "meet the quinoa salad of your dreams" and I was intrigued because I really do love quinoa and when I looked closer, I realized it featured a lot of flavors that I'm partial to - spice from ginger, tartness from rice vinegar, balanced by a bit of sweetness from mirin.
I'm curious: has anyone ever seen "prewashed" quinoa in stores?  I wish I could get my hands on that - I didn't know such a thing existed until it was called for in this recipe.  As you most likely know, quinoa really must be washed before using.  If not, it has a bitter, almost medicine-like, taste to it.  I have yet to find prewashed quinoa so I had to take the additional step of rinsing and drying out the quinoa before moving on to toast and cook it.  I would surely love to skip that step (and cook this a lot more often as a result) but it was worth the effort nonetheless.  

This quinoa pilaf comes out the way I like it - tender and fluffy, not mushy. The key is not to use too much liquid.  When I make plain quinoa, I go with a ratio of 1 cup of quinoa to 1 2/3 cups water (not the recommended 1 to 2 ratio you're likely to see on packages).  This recipe produces the individual grains of tender quinoa that I like, with the Asian flavors I always enjoy.  I tried adding a bit of minced garlic to this recipe and I actually found that it's better without it because the garlic seemed to overpower and take away from the ginger, which I like in abundance.  

I have to say that this really is a terrific quinoa pilaf/salad recipe.  I can't say that I ever dream of quinoa but if I did, this is pretty close to what I'd be dreaming of.  


Recipe:

Quinoa Pilaf with Shiitake Mushrooms, Edamame, and Ginger
From Cooks Illustrated, recipe also available here

- 4 to 6 servings - 

1 1/2 cups prewashed quinoa*
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin on a bias
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons grated ginger (I like even a bit more)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup cooked shelled edamame
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin

* If you can't find prewashed quinoa (like me), you'll have to rinse the quinoa thoroughly using a fine mesh sieve.  Drain well and spread quinoa out on a clean dish towel set in a baking sheet to dry for about 15 minutes before using.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dry toast the quinoa for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to pop and smell nutty and fragrant.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  

Place the now empty pan back on medium-low heat and heat oil until shimmering.  Add scallion whites, shiitakes, ginger and salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are softened.

Raise heat to medium-high.  Add water and quinoa, and bring to a simmer,. Cover the pan and simmer on low-heat until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, 18-20 minutes, stirring once midday through. Remove pan from the heat, stir in edamame, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Fluff quinoa with a fork, stir in vinegar and mirin, then serve.  

Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.  I prefer this quinoa pilaf warm or at room temperature, and I also like adding an additional splash of rice vinegar before serving for a little bit of fresh sharpness.










38 comments:

  1. I am SO ready for spring. Like, four weeks ago I was ready. Maybe eating this quinoa dish will convince the weather gods that it's time!

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    1. Yes, so weary and so ready...as we likely get more snow today! Let's hang in there!

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  2. I can't get over how much snow you are all getting up there - my parents are in NJ and they have been getting hammered with it this year! Then again, I never thought I'd see snow in NC! haha I'm not the biggest quinoa fan but I absolutely love all the other flavors in here - maybe this will be the recipe that convinces me I like it! lol It's weird because I love pretty much all whole grains but I just can't seem to get on board with quinoa! Even though I want to like it....

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    1. It is pretty insane...snowing right now, as a matter of fact.
      My experience with quinoa is kind of opposite to yours. I was pretty sure that I would *not* like it (it looks so funny!) but I tasted it and loved it. It's light but I always feel full and I enjoy the nutty texture. Do you rinse the quinoa well before use? I just ask because it's rather gross if you don't...it has a bitter taste over it. Anyway, we can't all love everything. I know I don't...and this would be good with brown rice or wild rice, etc.

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  3. I can't get enough of quinoa, it is such a wonderful grain. Your dish looks great with edamame and rice vinegar which I usually I make with brown rice. Monica, its interesting to know that you use 1 2/3 cup water in a cup of quinoa where as I cook mine with 1 1/4 cup water in well covered pan on low heat. I never stir midway and have always gotten excellent result.

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    1. I love brown rice, too...the nuttier/crunchier, the better. I use no more 1 2/3 cups water and a little less could work too. I will try next time. I never stir it either. It's just in this recipe.

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  4. I guess, you guys have all that cold weather while we, here, on the other hemisphere, enjoy a very mild season :) I love grainy, warm salads. Yours looks delicious! :) ela

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    1. As you can imagine, I want to trade you right now. Snowing outside here...

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  5. That's lots of snow! We have a really mild winter this year. It only snowed once in November...nothing more since then.
    Love your quinoa pilaf!

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    1. I believe the count is close to 60" this winter. Sigh...Spring will be here, eventually...

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  6. Hi Monica, I bought some quinoa from Costco that is organic and prewashed. It is called Nature's Wild Grains Premium Organic Quinoa from C & F food inc.. Beautiful dish. Love that combination of ingredients!

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    1. Thank you so much for that info!! I don't go to Costco but I can tag along with my brother or ask them to be on the lookout for me. I'm assuming it really won't need another rinse? That would be so great! Thanks again!

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  7. Gosh everyone in America is really being snowed in! It's actually too hot here - it's raining now and I'm glad it is. This dish looks delicious Monica! I love quinoa, and I really would love to find pre-washed quinoa also - it's kind of an annoying step!

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    1. It's a whopper of a winter here this year. Mother Nature has something in store for us every year. I'm just grateful we have heat and we're safe and warm. I'm going to take Cheri's tip (above) and look for that prewashed quinoa. I hope you find some at your end...not need to clean the sieve would be a nice shortcut!

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  8. Gosh, I feel for you guys with the snow. It is endless. Let's hope the weather 'breaks' soon. Love this quinoa salad Monica, perfect for a healthy energy boost at this time of year :-)

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    1. Hi Jo - yes, I'm hoping it breaks soon, too. And you got my point exactly...I'm hoping food like this will give me an "energy boost"...well put!

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  9. i completely know what you mean! i feel like everyone's in such a rut with winter right now, it really does feel like everlasting. i'm trying to add more summery foods into my diet as well so this looks perfect :)
    the hobbit kitchen x

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    1. The sun was out at least today...I'm hoping to see spring soon!

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  10. It has definitely been one really long winter. I am so ready for warmer weather and spring to arrive. This last snow storm surprisingly missed us but it's still been really cold. I'm a big fan of quinoa and love this salad that you made. Love that you added grated ginger and and rice vinegar and the edamame and shitake mushrooms sound perfect! Definitely helping me to think of warmer thoughts :) Hope you stay warm and safe and enjoy the rest of the weekend Monica!

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    1. This was yummy and it does feel good to eat a little lighter (and then have some chocolate for dessert). This winter needs to say 'goodbye'...I'm so ready, as I'm sure you are. Glad the last storm missed you!!

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  11. i am liking this quinoa pilaf! it is definitely making me want spring more! ;)

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  12. All of these flavors do sound so good! Going to try this soon - it would be perfect for bringing to school for my lunches!

    I hope it warms up quickly for y'all!!!

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    1. Yes, it would be a great thing to pack for your school lunch! Or now I'm thinking for a picnic...if we ever get picnic weather again...great idea!

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  13. We got a foot of snow last week - so ready for spring myself! Now we have it in the forecast for tomorrow night. Just ready for warmth. This quinoa looks great - and you can't beat a Cooks Illustrated recipe! Yum! Have a lovely week :)

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    1. Well...my little one and I just came in from shoveling. I'm really sick of it. : ) Ready for Spring!

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  14. I'm so looking forward to warmer weather as well. It feels like it is being the longest and coldest winter ever, I'm so done with it! I agree with you that the part I miss the most is fresh produce. Oh, and summery meals too! This quinoa dish looks and sounds fantastic and super healthy! I would have loved it for lunch today ;--)

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  15. Hey, This post is looking so good and Amazing! A very well made post with beautiful pictures. I've bookmarked this special recipe of yours and would love to give it a shot soon. Thanks for sharing your well prepared and presented recipes. Shall look forward to your next post.
    Have a wonderful week ahead. Take care and stay warm.
    Thanks & Regards, Sonia!!!

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  16. that actually may BE the quinoa salad of my dreams; it sounds magnificent!! seriously, too, and the snow: i'm all for a few little snow days here and there, but enough is enough already. I had to cancel a few things today simply b/c there's sheets of ice outside and I could skate to get the mail. I'm over it: i need farmers' markets and sunshine, and hey, maybe temperatures above 6 degrees. :)

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    1. I kept telling my husband I had to make 'the quinoa salad of my dreams' and we'd get a kick out of it. I couldn't get that line out of my head. It had to be made and I'm a big fan of these flavors. So much snow, so cold, so much ice....remind me of all this when I start complaining about the heat in July! ; )

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  17. I've never seen pre-washed quinoa either. I'm all for pretending/preparing for the warm weather to come soon!

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    1. You know something, Bianca...I'm thinking I'm going to be resistant *not* to wash it anyway. It is so bad if it's not rinsed thoroughly. Stay warm!

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  18. Luckily I've been spared most of the winter weather here. Our winters are just a bit rainy with occasionally some strong winds. :) I don't miss the snow after seeing so much of it on the news for the East Coast. Eek! The endless shoveling. Don't miss at all! For this dish, to be honest, I don't know if I knew that you had to rinse quinoa. I've done it because I do it with rice, but didn't realize it would affect the flavor. And no, I have never seen "prewashed" quinoa.

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    1. Glad you've been spared the endless snow storms and shoveling and ice. There is nothing to miss at this point.
      As for the quinoa, it really does need to be washed. I wouldn't recommend you do an experiment to compare (believe me, it's got a weird bitter taste to it otherwise)...

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  19. I can never ever get rice pilaf to come out just right-but I never tried making pilaf with quinoa-you might have just solved my dilemma!

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    1. I have a mushroom pilaf I saw on TV that I've been wanting to make. This one is a good one if you like quinoa and these Asian flavors.

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