Make: Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms, Scallions and Walnuts

A gluten-free side dish that's perfect for a summer barbecue (and vegan-friendly, too!).

You probably don’t watch The Bachelorette—I’m sure you prefer cool, edgy, programs that straddle boundary lines and promote stimulating conversation (or at least, you tell people you do). Me, I watch The Bachelorette. It’s mindless, silly, and absolutely addicting. If you are watching this season, you will have seen one of the contestants tell the lovely Emily over dinner that she “should try this, it’s called kwin-oh-ah.” Well shucks, that’s embarrassing. The poor guy was talking about quinoa, but pronounced it the way all of my high school students do.

Quinoa (say it with me: keen-wah) is an ancient whole grain that’s currently enjoying its time in the sun. Not only is it gluten free, it’s a complete protein. That means that it has all the essential amino acids you need, just like animal products (meat, eggs, fish, dairy). So quinoa is a fantastic food for vegetarians and vegans who need a protein fix. All this and it tastes great, especially when you turn it into a pilaf.

This dish tastes wonderfully fresh and would be the perfect make-ahead side for a summer barbecue. It pairs well with fish, poultry, or even red meat. The walnuts lend a roast-y warm taste and a surprising crunch—just make sure to toast them first (directions below). If quinoa isn’t your thing but you’re looking for a new salad dressing, please try this one. I put it on everything! A creamy, fat free dressing with fresh herbs? Yes, please.

A quick word on technique: You’ll notice the word “rinsed” next to the quinoa in the ingredients list. Quinoa is technically a seed and is coated with a substance called saponin, which makes birds and insects avoid it due to the bitter flavor. Unless the package you buy specifically says it’s rinsed, make sure to give it a quick shower. Just place in a sieve with very small holes and run water over it for about thirty seconds.

Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms, Scallions and Walnuts
Serves six

1 tbsp. olive oil
10 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. quinoa, rinsed and cooked*
½ c. sliced scallions
1/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted**

For the dressing
2 tbsp. nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. finely chopped basil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

*After rinsing thoroughly, add quinoa to 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to boil. As soon as water boils, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.

**To toast walnuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant.

1. Heat oil in nonstick skillet pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt. Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and completely tender.
2. Combine quinoa, mushrooms, scallions and walnuts in a serving/mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.
4. Pour dressing ingredients over quinoa mixture and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate. Note: This dish is best served at room temperature, so remove from fridge about a half hour before serving.

Per serving: 191 calories; 8.7 fat grams (including 0.8 saturated fat, 3.5 polyunsaturated fat, and 2.3 monounsaturated fat); 200 milligrams sodium, 134 milligrams potassium, 24.1 grams carbs, 2.9 grams fiber, 6.1 grams protein.


Becca Boyd is a wife and new mom who teaches culinary courses to students at Radnor High School. She creates healthy and delicious recipes in her West Chester kitchen and blogs about them on her website, Home Beccanomics.