Monday, September 20, 2010

Asian Mushroom Quinoa

I make a lot of recipes that I don’t share with you…either because they aren’t anything special or I figure most people wouldn’t be interested.  For example, I make a lot of grain salads.  Some type of whole grain mixed with a combination of veggies, fruit, herbs, nuts, and protein all tossed together with a vinaigrette.  And of course I eat it over a bed of lettuce…instant salad!  But I’m not sure the average person would care enough to read about these impromptu recipes.

Sometimes I use bulgur as my grain (the grain in tabbouleh).  Or wheatberries.  Or wild rice.  Other times I’ll use a small whole grain pasta (Israli couscous or orzo).  Lately its been quinoa.  I bought a HUGE bag of quinoa at Costco in Houston for SO CHEAP!  And now I’m using it all the time (and I still haven’t even made a dent in the bag).

I didn’t taste quinoa until I switched majors in college from pre-med to nutrition.  In my first cooking course we prepared this strange grain.  I don’t remember what I though about it…but it didn’t turn me into a quinoa eater.  Maybe because back then it wasn’t readily available in the grocery?

Years later living in Houston, I began my transformation into a foodie…I fell in love with Central Market and Whole Foods.  Two places that sold a prepared quinoa salad.  And I was hooked. 

But would I be able to convince others of the deliciousness of this grain?  Maybe if I told you how healthy it is?  And that it’s high in protein?  Or if I found an incredible recipe with flavors and ingredients that would make you eat ANYTHING…


That is the case here.  I think this combination of ingredients…onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, cilantro, mushrooms, cashews, lime juice…would be good on ANYTHING.  And for all you meat eaters (Adam) you could add chicken or shrimp or even steak.

So if you don’t want to be adventurous and try quinoa, make this recipe anyway and substitute with a small shaped pasta…preferably whole grain.


Asian Mushroom Quinoa
adapted from

1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups water or stock, or a combination of both
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (canola, grapeseed)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated/minced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
12 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (shitake, button, cremini)
1 cup sliced green onions, both white and green parts (about 1 small bunch)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but recommended)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)*
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves minced
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup cashews, toasted and chopped

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer under cool running water, then drain well (the grains are very small and will slip through a coarse strainer).

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the quinoa.  Toast the quinoa, shaking the pan frequently, just until the grains dry, are just beginning to color and have a nutty aroma, about 4 minutes.
Add water or stock and a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add oil and heat until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the garlic and ginger and fry, stirring constantly, just until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds (the garlic can burn quickly).

Add the mushrooms stir-fry until caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the green onions in with the mushrooms and continue to stir-fry just until the green onions begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the fish sauce (if using), soy sauce, and vinegar to the mixture and stir or toss to combine, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, gently toss the quinoa and carrots  with the warm shiitake-green onion mixture.  Add the cilantro, lime zest and juice, sesame oil, and cashews. Season to taste with additional salt if desired and serve immediately.  If not serving immediately don’t add the cashews…they get soggy!

Per serving (about 1 cup or 1/8 of the recipe) – 219 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated), 28 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 8 g protein  (exchanges: 1.5 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 fat; WW points: 4)

* I actually used leftover pickled carrots the first time I made this

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