Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf

Quinoa pilaf recipe with mushrooms, scallions and bell peppers

New Queen on the Block

In between bouts of rain and nostalgia (I prickle using the word nostalgia, to be honest; it smacks of sentimentality, not a trait I cultivate or suffer gladly, but I'll get to that later) I've been craving quinoa like there's no tomorrow, as if I'm living in my own post-apocalyptic genre movie, foraging for nuts and berries on a desert highway in my fashionably shredded mud spattered get-up complete with goggles and chain link bracelets, wishing I had the taut burnished thighs of Tina Turner instead of my own wobbly, pale set of limbs.

Yeah. I'm talking voracious.

I don't know how I used to survive 
without this spectacular Wonder "Grain".

Honestly. How did I cope? This ancient "faux grain" is so much lighter and friendlier to digest than that old hippie stand-by brown rice. It's far more elegant and Helen Mirren queenly than earthy-crunchy Isabel Lucas bo-ho. It has more finesse. More history and character. Not to mention, more nutrition (quinoa is a complete vegan protein, don't forget- unlike most other cereal grains whose nubby chewy aminos need to commingle with complementary legumes or seeds or nuts to be of any real use to us in the vegetarian protein scheme of things). It's also got some calcium. Which can't hurt.

But back to that nostalgia thing.

It has occurred to me- this very week- that I lack the sentimentality gene. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a lively romp down memory lane now and again, just like any crow-footed mid-life goddess with a lively past and a healthy sense of curiosity. It's amusing- even illuminating- to look back down the road once in awhile. To catch the rear view. To shuffle through old photographs, to listen to a song that evokes the summer of '69. That night in the back seat at the drive-in. Peter Fonda on the big screen. The bolt of first love.

But I am not wistful or gauzy eyed, thinking about the past. I don't romanticize it. Though I had an awfully good time of it- I admit I embraced my freedom with gusto.

What is astonishing to me, hitting me upside the head in a virtual shakabuku, is how good my taste in men was, way back then. At the tender age of 15. I made some pretty fine choices way back when. Though my complicated childhood made it inevitable I would feel undeserving and soon enough gravitate to the familiar territory of exploitation. The roots of self-sabotage are sown in the shadow of the family altar. Just when the individuating soul is awakening, the unconscious rumbles from its slumber of innocence and stirs up the familial ghosts to hook its ugly claim on fate. It whispers, You think you got out free and clear, eh?

Some never pry themselves free. Some simply give in to momentum. Some accept less, willingly, and swell with stoic pride. Some find religion and pray to angels. Some choose work. And some replace love with sentiment. The pale excuse for love. The embroidery of nostalgia and its rose-tinted ribbons, investing in a picture that looks pretty to strangers. It is not perfect, but it looks good.

But that's not love.

Love isn't mediagenic. It's messy and complicated and often the timing sucks. Love asks us to get dirty. To risk authenticity, not sugar-coat its opposite. Love doesn't depend upon perfection (See: Moonstruck) . Or what the neighbors think. Love seeds itself in the broken places. It prefers the company of weeds above roses. And love doesn't require being polite, being correct, being right, being the best. Love asks us to hurt. To stretch beyond what is bearable. To feel scared. To lose control. To be ridiculous.

It took me twenty-five years to find it again. That deep, true love. And this time I grabbed it.

And after sixteen years, I hold it tight, still. 

Delicious quinoa pilaf is easy to make

Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf Recipe

BY Karina Allrich January 2010.

You can use either broth or water to cook this quinoa recipe, but for a hearty, flavor-rich quinoa pilaf, use your favorite broth.


Make your quinoa the easy way (how to here- using a rice cooker.)

You'll need roughly 2 1/2 - 3 cups cooked quinoa. 

As the quinoa cooks, gather and cut up your vegetables.


Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small to medium yellow bell pepper, diced fine
1 small to medium green bell pepper, diced fine
2 cups sliced mushrooms
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Greek Seasoning (mint, lemon, basil, oregano mix)
2 scallions (spring onions) sliced- white and light green sections
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste


Toasted pine nuts, for serving


Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve. Drain. Place in rice cooker or pot with two cups fresh water. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed. 

When the quinoa is almost done, heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, yellow and green pepper; and stir over medium heat until slightly softened. Add in the mushrooms. Season with sea salt, and ground pepper, to taste. Add the Greek seasoning. Stir and cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Scoop the cooked quinoa out of the rice cooker and add it into the mushroom- pepper mixture. Add in the sliced scallions. Stir to combine. Squeeze fresh lemon juice all over the quinoa and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat the quinoa.

Taste test and add more salt or seasoning if it needs it.

Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, if desired.

Serve immediately; or allow it to cool, then cover and refrigerate it to eat as a salad.

Note on chilling this quinoa: Before serving this quinoa cold, taste test again and adjust seasonings; chilling often dulls the flavors in these kinds of salads. I usually allow quinoa salad a few minutes out of the fridge before serving; letting it to come to room temperature helps the flavors. If making ahead as a salad, I'd use water instead of broth- personal preference.

Cook time: 30 min

Yield: Serves 4

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