Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely a fan of quinoa. It’s just a great canvas for making great dishes – sort of like rice, but counts as a “superfood” and is just a little better for you. I hadn’t made quinoa in a while, and had about a cup left in a container in the pantry. Thankfully, I spotted this recipe over at Annie’s Eats several weeks ago, and it’s one of those recipes that you just can’t seem to get out of your head after you read about it.

It was a great side dish to accompany some chicken habanero patties that I had stashed away in the deep freeze. Dinner was delicious and filling, and there was enough quinoa leftover for lunch the next day.

Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

adapted from Annie’s Eats 

  • 1cup quinoa, rinsed (you have to do this or else your quinoa will be bitter!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco or cojita cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the quinoa and toast it stirring frequently, until it starts to sizzle a bit. Remove from heat & transfer the quinoa to a bowl.
  2. Put the pan back onto the burner and increase heat to medium.  Melt the butter and olive oil together.  Add the diced onion, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Cook until the onion begins to soften – stir occasionally.
  3. Once the onions are nice soft, turn the heat up to medium-high.  Add the quinoa back to the pan and add the water, bringing the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and reduce the heat to low, creating a simmer. Cook for 18-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Mix in the corn and remove the pan from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 more minutes.  Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Add the cheese, scallions and lime juice; toss to combine.

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I could not find queso fresco at the store – they were out – so I had to substitute in cojita cheese. The saltiness of the cheese really complimented the dish, so it is a nice replacement if you can’t find the fresco. Corn was not in the original recipe either, but I think it really worked well in the pilaf. If you want to spice it up even more, add some crushed red pepper in with the spices. You won’t be disappointed 😉

I have a feeling I’ll be making this a few times this coming spring/summer, once the grill is officially fired up for the season. Or, I may make it on a random Saturday; it could easily become a meal on its own. It’s quick, easy, and very flavorful!

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