I first heard of quinoa a long time ago, but only tried it recently, with this recipe.  It’s so good that we’ve added it to our diets as a staple grain.  Quinoa, long popular in South America before the Spanish conquest, is classed as a grain, but it isn’t, really – it’s a seed, and a relative of spinach and swiss chard.  It’s got a low Glycemic Index rating for a grain-type food — 51 — making it good for those who need to watch their blood sugar.  Also important to this vegetarian, it is a source of complete protein, with all of the necessary amino acids.  It’s also a good source of minerals, like magnesium, manganese, copper and iron.

Unwashed quinoa should be stored in the refrigerator, as it is prone to rancidity due to the oily saponins that coat the grains.   Rinse them very well in a sieve, swishing the seeds with your hand, until there is no bitter taste remaining.  You can also buy pre-washed quinoa, which I did when I didn’t have a sieve fine enough to strain the tiny seeds.

The nutty flavor of quinoa is really brought out by toasting it before cooking it.  Put quinoa in a dry skillet, and toast over medium-low heat, stirring and shaking so that it won’t burn, until the grains are lightly golden and smell fragrant.  Don’t let them get brown.  Allow to cool a bit before using in your recipe.

I found this vegan Quinoa Pilaf recipe at The Savvy Vegetarian, and it was excellent.  The only change I made was to increase the amount of turmeric from 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp.  I also chose to garnish with parsley because I don’t like cilantro.

You can easily find asoefetida at Indian markets, where it is known as Hing.  Just use a pinch.  Raw, it smells awful, like burnt hair.  When cooked, it has a wonderful mellow aroma and flavor, sort of garlicky.  You can sub in a pinch of minced garlic if you don’t have any hing.


  • 1 C quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 C celery, chopped small (or sliced thinly)
  • 1/2 C raw cashews, toasted
  • 1/2 C red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of asoefetida/hing, or a pinch of minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-3/4 C water
  • 1/4 C parsley or cilantro
  • ground black pepper, to taste


  • Rinse the quinoa well and toast; set aside to cool.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add garlic, celery, red pepper, and cashews.
  • Stir-fry until cashews are golden.
  • Add the rest of the spices and stir well.
  • Add quinoa and stir until all the oil has been absorbed.
  • Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and allow to sit covered about 5 minutes; fluff with a fork, add pepper to taste, and garnish with the parsley or cilantro.  Enjoy!