Red Quiona with Drunk Mushrooms and Roasted Tomatoes (Oh My!)

Quinoa… say it with me… ‘Keen-wah’, is all over the place these days. Traditionally, quinoa has been harvested for thousands of years as a staple crop in South America. It’s technically not a grain at all, but actually a seed from the Goosefoot (Chenopodium) Plant. Bonus: this little seed is jam packed with nutrition– Vitamins E & B, essential amino acids, with punches of fiber and protein! Bonus #2: It’s Gluten Free!

With that little history lesson behind us, let’s talk recipes shall we? Quinoa is quite versatile, and makes for a yummy variation for whatever carb, grain or rice dish you are sick of making. It has a lovely nutty and earthy flavor and is simple & quick to prepare (like rice, but much faster!) and lends itself to any flavor profile you want to throw at it. Here, I’m using a fresh, Italian-fusion style, which could be served as an entree rather than just a side. Experiment away!

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 c. Red Quinoa
4 c. water
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 medium onion, diced (separate into 2 equal portions)
1/3  c. of your favorite sharp cheese, shredded
8-10 large Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and large chopped
1 1/2 c. Dry White Wine
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced and roasted (full recipe here!)
6-7 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade Salt & Pepper

First, prepare the Quinoa.

1. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a 1 1/4 quart sauce pan. Add 1/2 of the diced onion, and sweat until transparent.

2. Add quinoa, and toast lightly until all grains are coated in the olive oil and onion mixture (this will bring out the red in the seeds a bit).

3. Add 4 c. water, and give a good stir. Bring to a rolling boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook quinoa until all water has been absorbed (approx 15-20 min). Season with 1-2 tsp. salt, depending on your taste preference.

4. For an extra flavor boost, grate in 1/3 c. of your favorite sharp cheese. I used a blend of sharp white cheddar and Pecorino cheeses.

Meanwhile:  Roast the tomato slices, sprinkled with coarse salt, on a baking sheet coated with pan spray — 425 degrees for 20 minutes. For more detailed recipe, look here.

While the quinoa is cooking, it’s time to get those mushrooms nice and drunk (and unbelievably flavorful)!

1.  Add 1 Tbs. of olive to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sweat until translucent.

2.  Add mushrooms and stir to coat thoroughly. Season with a pinch of salt and sauté mushrooms with onions for about 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is almost fully reduced. Remove from heat.

To serve, scoop desired portions of quinoa onto plates, and top with the roasted tomatoes, drunk mushrooms, fresh basil and finish with a sprinkle of cheese.

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