Toasted quinoa with spinach, nuts and cheese

Toasted Quinoa Stirred with Spinach, Toasted Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese
Makes 4 servings

Quinoa is botanically an herb although it is always grouped in with grains. It is quick cooking and has a sweet mild taste and a pleasant crunch. Serve as a side dish with sautéed onions and fresh herbs, stir into soups to thicken and enrich, add to salads, or try it-instead of rice-in this simple stirred dish that is reminiscent of "risotto".


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated or crushed garlic
  • 1 ¾ cups hot water
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ cup broken walnuts
  • 2 cups packed (about 8 ounces) tender spinach, stems trimmed, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup tri-color grape or petite cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Torn basil leaves (optional garnish)
  1. Place the quinoa in small bowl; add water to cover; swish to rinse; pour into fine mesh strainer; drain well.

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread damp quinoa on rimmed sheet pan and roast until toasted, about 15 minutes.

  3. Heat oil and garlic in a medium skillet over low heat and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 30 seconds. Add water and salt, stir over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and cook, covered, over medium low heat, until all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa has burst open and is fluffy, 18 to 20 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile spread the walnuts in a small skillet and stir over medium low heat until toasted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

  5. When quinoa is cooked add spinach and tomatoes to the skillet. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until spinach is almost wilted and tomatoes are warmed, about 1 minute. Stir in walnuts and cheese. Garnish with basil and serve.

Fun Facts about Quinoa
  • Quinoa is pronounced: "keen wah"
  • It looks like a grain, but it's not truly one. It's related to leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard
  • It was known to the Inca's as the "mother grain"
  • It contains all the essential amino acids making it a complete protein
  • It is also a good source of fiber and contains iron, zinc, iron, Vitamin E and other nutrients
  • It is mostly imported from Bolivia and Ecuador, although some is grown in the US
  • It comes in red, black, and ivory or tan
  • It cooks in 15 minutes, much like rice
Rinse quinoa in water before cooking to remove a natural substance from the surface called saponin. Nature's way of repelling birds and insects, the saponin gives the quinoa a soapy taste if not rinsed before cooking

About Marie Simmons:

Marie Simmons is an award winning cookbook author, a popular cooking teacher, and food writer whose recipes and features have appeared in hundreds of magazines. She was a monthly columnist for Bon Appetit and a Los Angeles Times syndicated columnist for over 15 years.

She writes a column, Simmons Sez, for the Bay Area News Group and is a contributing editor to Eating Well Magazine.

Simmons has written over twenty cookbooks including Fig Heaven (William Morrow 2004), The Amazing World of Rice (William Morrow 2003), The Good Egg (Houghton Mifflin 2000) a winner of a James Beard Award, Fresh & Fast (Houghton Mifflin 1996) and Lighter, Quicker, Better, written with Richard Sax (William Morrow 1995) winner of both the Julia Child and James Beard awards. She also wrote A to Z Bar Cookies, A to Z Puddings, A to Z Muffins, and A to Z Pancakes.

One of her first cookbooks, 365 Ways to Cook Pasta has over 500,000 copies in print.

Simmons newest book is the best selling Sur La Table's Things Cooks Love: Implements, Ingredients, Recipes (Andrews McMeel 2008), nominated for an IACP best cookbook award in 2008. She is currently working on a new book, Fresh & Fast Vegetarian (Houghton Mifflin 2011).

>> Buy Marie Simmons' books on Amazon

Simmons makes her home in Richmond, CA where her favorite pastime is cooking for friends and family, because, she claims, "To write about the food I love, I need to touch it first."

For more about Marie, visit

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