Quinoa Pilaf with Basil and Mint

With a heat wave in
full force here in B.C., I keep looking for cooler recipes to serve at dinner time. These need to be ones that can be prepped earlier in the day before it gets too hot, or ones that are prepared on the BBQ outside on the balcony.  

For last night's meal I picked up some chicken kebobs for me and a steak for my husband. The chicken was already marinated in a Tequila Lime sauce. I bought some Montreal Steak Spice for my husband to marinate his steak in. These really cooked up fast on the grill and had an amazing pop of taste, so I needed something not only cool, but with a subtler flavor to pair with it.  This Quinoa Pilaf With Basil and Mint from a site called Simply Recipes was the perfect choice. 

I chose this for several reasons - the mix of herbs, the nuts, and the fact they recommend it be served at room temperature or chilled.  I thought I started making this early enough to get it well chilled, but I didn't. It ended up just a little cooler than room temperature. So if you're serving chilled I suggest you make it in the morning for an mid-afternoon or early evening meal.  The other note I want to make is that I didn't wait for the quinoa to fully cool before I added the herbs and that made them wilt a bit. Next time I will wait longer.

Last but not least, I am thinking of adding a wedge of lemon to each serving that could be squeezed over the pilaf if dinners choose. I think it would be a great last addition to it, especially if chilled, but will try it on the leftovers today to test it out. Enjoy!

= = = = 

Quinoa Pilaf
3 to 4 servings

Ingredients -

2 T                    Extra virgin olive oil, divided 1 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp
1/2                    Medium yellow onion (I used a sweet onion), finely chopped
1/4                    Orange, Red or Yellow Bell pepper, finely chopped
1                       Garlic clove, minced
2 T                    Pine nuts (I didn't have any so subbed Pepitas)
1 C                    Uncooked quinoa
2 C                    Water
2 T                    Chopped fresh mint
2 T                    Chopped fresh basil or Thai basil*
1 T                    Chopped fresh chives (or green onions including the greens)
1                        Small cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
Salt and pepper
* Best way to chop basil or mint is by rolling up the leaves like a cigar and slicing crosswise from the end.

Instructions - 

Sauté onion, bell pepper, garlic, pine nuts:

Heat 1 T of olive oil on medium high heat in a 1-1/2 to 2 quart pot. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, but not browned. 

Add the uncooked quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally for a couple more minutes. You can let some of the quinoa get a little toasted. Add 2 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low so that the quinoa and water are simmering while the pot is partially covered (enough to let out some steam).

Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and put into a large serving bowl. Fluff up with a fork. 

Let cool until just slightly warm, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in chopped mint, basil, chives, and cucumber. Add salt and pepper to taste. (NOTE -  After making this I personally would cool completely before adding the next ingredients to avoid wilting the herbs.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.