Quinoa with Pine Nuts and Spinach

The whole family is willing to eat this whole grain side dish.  We serve it with fish or BBQ chicken.  Quinoa is kind of a pain to rinse, but it is a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids)… and high in magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.  You can read more about the health benefits and preparation methods of quinoa at The World’s Healthiest Foods website (one of my favorite food web sites).

This is my favorite quinoa recipe.  Sometimes I leave out the zests and red pepper, depending upon the main dish.  Sometimes I chop up a leek and/or green onions and add with the shallot.  Sometimes I replace the shallot with 1/4 of an onion.

Quinoa with Pine Nuts and Spinach

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup quinoa (white or red or whatever… we use white)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbsp shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (or currants)
  • 4 oz baby spinach chopped – fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or other spice to taste

Toast pine nuts in a dry oven pan at 350 for about 5 minutes (toast only until fragrant; they don’t need to turn brown; be careful not to burn them).  Set aside.

Rinse quinoa in cold water for a minute or so in a sieve or any fine mesh filter… or coffee filter if you have nothing else.  It is important that you rinse your quinoa, because it is naturally coated in saponin (which is bitter in order to deter birds, and mildly toxic to humans… the presence is saponin is obvious by the production of soapy suds when rinsing, when the suds are gone the saponin is most likely gone).

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute shallots until soft, stirring often.  If you are adding chopped frozen spinach, add the spinach now.

Add rinsed quinoa and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly.  Add stock, salt, pepper and dried fruit.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and cook on low until the liquid is absorbed and the grain is soft.

If you are using fresh spinach, stir in spinach now until it is wilted.

Remove from heat.  Add zests, pine nuts and remaining spice.  Toss gently to combine.

Serves 4 as a side dish.  Good hot, room temp or chilled.

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