Toasted Quinoa with Squash and Leeks

Posted on Updated on

2013-10-20 08.33.18

Despite what rumors some may have you believe, it is a verified fact that quinoa is not a grain of any kind. It is in fact a a seed of the Chenopodium, or Goosefoot plant, but is used as a grain when cooking. Packed with protein, quinoa contains every amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which promotes healthy tissue growth throughout the body. It is also a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. Quinoa has been finding its way in the spotlight and is appearing in more restaurant menus and recipe sites.  Gluten-free and light, quinoa is versatile and can be served in many different ways with any ingredients of your choice. Plus, its mild taste and rich texture make it perfect for different kinds of dishes. Quinoa is most popularly served as a side dish although I have made various quinoa salads on several occasions. If you are looking to spice up your quinoa side dish with Middle Eastern flavors, I have the perfect quinoa recipe for you. I actually borrowed this recipe from a risotto recipe using quinoa instead of risotto for a lighter rendition. I also incorporated cubed squash for a semblance of Fall but pumpkin works just as well. Dried cranberries and pine nuts were used as garnish on this side dish which gives it a festive appearance. You can always omit these two ingredients if you don’t like them. Walnuts are also a cheaper alternative to pine nuts. Toasting quinoa gives it a slightly nutty taste and complements the walnut flavor (if using any). This versatile side dish pairs well with chicken, beef, or fish.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of quinoa
  2. 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  3. 1 leek chopped and washed (including green parts)
  4. 1 lbs squash peeled and cut into small cubes
  5. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  6. 1 small chili pepper minced
  7. 1 teaspoon of cumin
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
  10. 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
  11. 2 cups of reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  12. 3/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  13. 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  14. Handful of dried cranberries
  15. 1 cup of pine nuts or walnuts (optional)


Toast quinoa in a large dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until it crackles and becomes aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a fine sieve and rinse thoroughly.  Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add squash and cook for another 7 minutes or so. Add chile pepper and garlic; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Season with ground pepper and spices.r Add the quinoa and broth; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Add mint leaves, lemon juice, dried cranberries, and nuts to the quinoa. Mix gently and fluff with a fork.


Yields 6 servings


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