Quinoa Update/ Variation

I went to make my quinoa pilaf the other day and realized that my spearmint has all but faded for the year (perhaps helped to its dormancy by my enthusiastic pruning and use of its leaves throughout the summer).  My apple mint, though, still grew abundantly (perhaps helped along by my steadfastly ignoring its offerings throughout the summer, in favor of its mintier cousin).

Apple mint, for those who have never tried it, is a sweeter, less-minty varietal.  I made ice cream with it, once, was disappointed by its lack of sharpness, and have ignored it ever since–until now.  Spurred into action by the challenge of making it work, I contemplated: how can I take advantage of the apple mint’s sweetness and turn its erstwhile weakness into an advantage?

I found my inspiration in the varietal’s very name, apple mint.  I substituted walnuts for the pine nuts I had been using, added apples into the vegetable mix, and supplemented the golden raisins with dried cranberries; in addition to using apple mint for the final garnish.  The result was more pleasing to the eye (as a result of the spark of color provided by the dried cranberries), and was also quite possibly even tastier than the original.

Quinoa Pilaf featuring Apple Mint

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, cut to fine brunoise
  • 1 apple, cut to fine brunoise (I used a wealthy apple)
  • 1/4 cup mixed golden raisins and dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (the apples provide enough moisture that a full 2 cups of stock is a bit more than necessary)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12-18 leaves fresh mint (apple mint does a great job, though other mints would work just fine, too)
  • cooking oil
  • salt and pepper

Rinse quinoa in three or four changes of water to guarantee that all of the bitter seed covering has been washed away (most commercially available quinoas have been pre-rinsed, but it’s worth it to make certain that the entire coating is gone).  Drain in a fine mesh sieve for 3-5 minutes before using.

Toast walnuts in hot, dry skillet, tossing constantly to make certain that they do not burn.  As nuts start to display a golden brown color and release a rich aroma, pour off to the side and reserve as a garnish.

Add thin layer of oil to bottom of pan and saute onion, garlic, and carrot with salt and pepper to taste.  As vegetables soften and begin to display a hint of golden brown, add the diced apples, and follow them up in short succession with rinsed and drained quinoa, dried fruit, stock, and cinnamon stick.  Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer 15 minutes.

Roll mint leaves the long way and slice into thin ribbons (chiffonade).  Stir mint and walnuts into finished quinoa.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

4 Responses to “Quinoa Update/ Variation”

  1. Fillippelli the Eater Says:

    Thanks. This sounds fantastic. I just purchased some quinoa. Hoping to use it this weekend. Don’t have apple mint, so maybe just 6-8 standard mint leaves (our plant is still OK) will do.

    Do have some chocolate mint, which tastes great, but only thing I’ve really used it for is to give a minty kick to chocolate martinis, which it does quite well!

  2. Tammi Kibler Says:

    This recipe looks delicious. What a great way to celebrate the flavors of the season.

  3. jwsharrard Says:

    I’ve longed for a chocolate mint plant since I made the apple mint ice cream. As it turns out, I may have gotten my wish—found some sprouts outside of my compost bin that I believe to be chocolate mint sprouted from the leftover bits of a farmers’ market purchase. Hoping they’ll return next spring, at which time I’ll try transplanting them elsewhere.

    I may have underestimated on the 6-8 leaves quantity. Don’t be shy–add as much as you think belongs, adjust based on the size of the leaves (the leaves of the apple mint are particularly large)

  4. Fillippelli the Eater Says:

    Thanks. Wife is going out of town on business starting Sunday and still have to get kids to soccer practices and other places while she’s gone, so going to make this Sunday night as dinner for Monday and Tuesday!

    You were an English major, no? You might like my first real crack at writing fiction:


    Or you might say, “Um, stick with writing about medicine!” :D

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