Salsa verde, AKA tomatillo salsa, makes a bold flavor statement in this easy quinoa pilaf. It has a somewhat smoky aspect that adds a distinctive flavor to dishes.
Look for salsa verde shelved near the more common red salsa varieties in supermarkets and natural foods stores. You won’t need an entire jar for this recipe, so use the salsa verde you don’t use as a dip for tortilla chips, of course. Even better, mash it with a ripe avocado and lime juice for a simple guacamole.
But let’s get back to the subject at hand — this delectable quinoa skillet, whose other yum factor comes from melty vegan cheddar. You can take firmly packed half-cups’ worth of the finished dish and invert them on a plate for an appealing presentation, as shown in the photo above. Or just use it as is, pilaf style, as shown in the photos below.
Served in moderate quantities, this is a great side dish, or in larger quantity, there’s no reason it can’t be the main event. For a light yet luscious meal, serve with steamed or roasted asparagus, sliced avocado, and sliced beets. For a heftier meal, add Super-Quick Two-Bean Salad.
Recipe adapted from 5-Ingredient Vegan by Nava Atlas (Sterling Epicure, 2019). Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
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- 1 1/2 cups quinoa (any color, or a combination), rinsed in a fine sieve
- 1 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa), or more, to taste
- 3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar (pre-shredded, or grated from a block)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the quinoa with 3 cups water in a stir-fry pan or deep skillet. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. If the quinoa isn’t done to your liking, add another 1/2 cup water and cook until absorbed.
- Stir in the salsa, scallions, and cheddar. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture gets nice and toasty.
- Stir in the cilantro, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
For anyone new to quinoa …
Quinoa seems like an established staple in the plant-based world, but here, for those who have yet to discover it, are a few basics:
- Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is an ancient food indigenous to the South American Andes. It was introduced to the American natural foods market in the 1980s.
- Quinoa is considered a superfood for its vitamin and mineral profile. Botanically, it’s more of a seed than a grain.
- You can use it as a bed of grain for vegetable or bean dishes as a change of pace from rice; to stuff winter vegetables, especially hard squashes; to make easy quinoa pilafs like the one in this post; and for delicious tabbouli-style salads like this one.
- The most common variety of quinoa grain is a kind of yellowish-tan, but red and black varieties are now available as well. They cook up the same way and taste pretty much the same as well; their appeal is mainly visual. Sometimes you can purchase a mix of all three colors.
- Quinoa cooks quickly and easily — use a ratio of liquid to grain of 2 to 1 (like 2 cups water or broth to 1 cup quinoa). If it’s not done to your liking, add an additional 1/2 cup of water at a time, cook until it’s absorbed, and test to see if it’s done.
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