Last time I went to Whole Foods, I picked up some quinoa. I have been reading a lot about whole grains and other fun stuff and today I decided to try it. I made a Quinoa and Pine Nut Pilaf from the Food Network website, with a little modification based on what I had on hand. Although quinoa itself is a complete protein, I decided to also make a light tilapia to go along with it.
Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is actually a seed. As I said, it is a complete protein, which means it gives us a balanced set of essential amino acids, and this makes it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. NASA is considering it as a crop for long-term space flights because of its nutritional value. This was my first time trying quinoa, but I liked it because it just looked so... cute! A way to tell if your quinoa is cooked is to look for little white fibery threads wrapped around each seed.
This pilaf recipe was a real test for me. I have never cooked with quinoa before, and I don't generally do well with doing multiple things at once. First I had to rinse the quinoa. It has a natural protective layer on it, which isn't really yummy to eat. The recipe says to put 1 cup of rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of chicken stock in a pot, bring it to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. I used one can of stock, which is 14.5 ounces -- less than 2 cups. I am also not very familiar with what boiling looks like when it's not water alone. I turned the heat down a little too late. Luckily, I checked the quinoa after about ten minutes. Perfect timing! Meanwhile, I cut 1/2 of an onion and cooked it in olive oil after toasting 1/4 cup of pine nuts. I mixed both in when my quinoa had finished cooking. The recipe also calls for fresh parsley. I didn't have that, so I thought I would use dried. For some strange reason, we don't have any. I put in some oregano instead, since I would be using it with the tilapia. I was nervous about how much to add and it ended up very underseasoned, despite the salt and pepper I also added. I liked the quinoa itself, but I would also like to try cooking it with water to see what it tastes like without the chicken broth flavor. I also ended up with way too much quinoa pilaf left over. The recipe says 6 servings, and the quinoa box says 2. I think it was closer to six.
My "light tilapia" comes from a recipe I found online a long time ago (but can't find now). I have made it several times in the past because it is so easy. The only difference between my version and the official recipe is that the recipe has amounts and measurements, and I use estimates and sprinkles. I get tilapia filets frozen and individually wrapped. I use hot water to defrost them just enough that they are flexible enough to work with. I know that's the wrong way to defrost things, but it works really well for last-minute meals, especially with these individually frozen fish. I put aluminum foil on a baking sheet, rinse the fish and pat dry, and lay it on the foil. I press 1 or 2 cloves of garlic and spread them on the fish as evenly as possible. Next, I sprinkle on some dried oregano, and a little less dried basil. I top it off with grated parmesan and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Put it in the oven for 8 minutes at 400 degrees. That time and temperature are exactly perfect to cook tilapia. It always comes out wonderful that way.
I needed a vegetable, so I heated up some frozen green beans in the microwave. I like to keep frozen vegetables on hand because you never know when you will need to add a veggie (like today), and they also are awesome for quick last-minute stir fry.
The meal as a whole was pretty good. Since the quinoa was so underseasoned, I took bites with the green beans and with the tilapia, which made it tastier. I will definitely be cooking quinoa again. Unfortunately I was not able to take many pictures this time, since I constantly had my hands full!