April is my birth month. Perhaps that I why I have such an affinity for what grows now: asparagus, sugar snap, and English, peas, bitter greens such as dandelion, nettles and lemony sorrel. Feel free to add any of them to this dish.
When I first tasted quinoa, more than 20 years ago now, I fell for it- hard. There were few recipes that stood up to my idea of perfect quinoa so I set to work perfecting my recipe.
My quinoa cooking method on the stove top is 1 cup quinoa, 1 ¾ cups liquid, 12 minutes on the heat and 5 minutes off the heat. I have shown thousands of people how to cook quinoa, on both the stove top and in the pressure cooker. Watch me cook quinoa in the stove top pressure cooker. (It works the same in the Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker).
Here are the directions for pressure cooking quinoa. I resisted doing this for years because quinoa already cooks so quickly. Yet, cutting the cooking time by more than half is quite useful. Cook 1 cup quinoa, 1 ¼ cups liquid, 5 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release. Additionally, you save at least 50% on your energy usage which is so environmentally friendly which means a lot in the month of Earth Day (but isn’t each day an earth day?).
No matter how I cook it, quinoa is a staple in my house and my go-to gluten-free grain. I especially like to mix the white (also called ivory) and red quinoa but in this recipe since the saffron colors the quinoa, it’s better to use the white which provides better visual contrast with the green vegetables. The lemon zest and juice add great fresh flavor and wonderful antioxidant and anticancer properties. Don’t ever mention that this dish might actually be good for you.
Saffron Quinoa with Spring Vegetables
- ¼ cup warm or hot water
- A pinch of saffron threads check out Rumi Spice saffron for saffron with a cause
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil if desired
- 1 cup sliced leek or onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup sliced snow or sugar snap peas about 12 medium peas
- 1 cup asparagus sliced into 1-inch pieces (about 8 medium spears)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon zest from an organic lemon
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or sliced or slivered almonds
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley with a bit of chives or dill
- Drizzle of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A sprinkle of vegan Parmesan cheese if that's how you roll
- Soak the saffron in the ¼ cup of water for at least 5 minutes. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the leek or onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the quinoa and toast it. Add the saffron and the soaking water. Add the broth. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 12 minutes on the heat. Remove from the heat and add the peas and asparagus. Replace the cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Check to be sure that the quinoa is cooked through (it will have little white rings). Stir and add the lemon zest pine nuts or almonds and herbs. When ready to serve, add the lemon olive oil or lemon juice right before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
- Pressure cooking directions: Follow the same directions as above (but use 1 1 1/4 cups liquid total instead of 1 3/4 cups), locking the lid on the pressure cooker and bringing to high pressure for 5 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. When the pressure drops, carefully open the lid tilting it away from you, add the asparagus and peas and put the lid back on for 2 minutes. Stir, add lemon zest, nuts and herbs.
- Note: My method for cooking perfect quinoa every time includes decreasing the amount of water by ¼ cup for each additional cup of grain. For example, when making 2 cups of quinoa, use only 3 ¼ cups liquid on the stove top (or 2 1/4 cups in the pressure cooker). When making 3 cups, use 5 cups of liquid (or 3 cups in the pressure cooker).