Miso Quinoa Pilaf with Grilled Cucumber, Eggplant, and Soy Dressing

By • August 13, 2012 • 27 Comments



Author Notes: Last summer I experimented with toasting grains and then cooking them in milk. This gave the grains a pronounced nutty fragrance and flavor that I loved. Last week, with soy on the brain, as I was browning butter for a batch of fiveandspice’s Simply Raspberry Muffins, it occurred to me that if I toasted grains in butter, added miso and then cooked them in milk, the nutty quotient might increase. Increase it does, with a peanut buttery aroma and richness from the miso, creating a quinoa pilaf ready to be dressed. But how to dress it? Inspired by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Spicy Cucumber Salad, a recent Genius pick, which has you bruise the cucumbers, I decided to try grilling cucumbers. They are surprisingly delicious! Grilled cucumbers maintain their crunch, and to my palate, the flavor brings them closer to their squash counterparts, zucchini. I added eggplant for textural and flavor contrast and a salty, tangy soy dressing to tie it all together. It is equally delicious warm, room temperature or cold the next day. gingerroot

Food52 Review: Thanks to gingerroot, I have found my go-to recipe for cooking quinoa. The result is a nutty, hearty, goodness that’s absolutely addictive. Pair this with a bright, salty, tangy dressing and you’ve got a great side or meal. And this dish lends itself to creativity, so you can have fun with the type of veggies—grilled or not—you choose to add.figgypudding

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

For the Pilaf

  • 1 large English cucumber
  • 2 small, long eggplants, about 5 to 6 inches (I used Gretel variety from my raised bed, Fairytale eggplants are comparable or 1 slender long eggplant of a larger variety)
  • Olive oil for grilling
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup 2 % milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon white miso (we used barley miso, which is darker)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1. Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill.
  2. Trim ends off cucumber and eggplants. Slice eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut cucumber crosswise into thirds, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Place vegetables in a baking pan and drizzle cut sides with olive oil, rubbing oil with your fingertip to cover the vegetables. Set aside until grill is hot.
  3. While you are waiting for your grill to heat up, start your quinoa by melting butter in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to toast the grains. After about 5 minutes, quinoa should start to pop and smell nutty (a few grains will turn golden brown). At this point, add milk and water, and whisk in miso. Cover pot and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 17 to 20 minutes until grains are tender and liquid has been absorbed. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Grill cucumber and eggplant pieces cut side down until lightly charred and tender, about 5 minutes for cucumber and 7 to 8 for eggplant. Flip and grill skin side down for 2 to 3 minutes more. Cucumber skin will start to wrinkle and eggplant flesh should yield easily when poked with a knife. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice cucumbers and eggplants crosswise into half moons.
  5. Fluff quinoa and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add sliced cucumber, eggplant, and half of the cilantro. Whisk or shake dressing to re-emulsify and add to taste (note that tamari and miso can both vary widely in saltiness, so dress sparingly at first, then add more as you like). I use about half of the dressing. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold to combine components of pilaf. Taste and add more dressing if desired. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pilaf is also delicious cold, the next day. Enjoy!

For the Soy Dressing

  • 1/4 cup gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 an orange (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  1. Combine tamari and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in orange juice and canola oil. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid.
  2. This will make more dressing than you need for this recipe. Use remaining as a dressing for other grilled vegetables or as a marinade for meat.
Jump to Comments (27)

Tags: cucumber, eggplant, miso, pilaf, quinoa, soy

Comments (27) Questions (0)

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21 days ago Rox

this looks right up my alley! l love quinoa salads year round.
question: normally i rinse quinoa to avoid the bitterness then simmer it. will toasting it mask it enough or do you buy no-rinse quinoa?
thanks!

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20 days ago gingerroot

Thanks, Rox! The quinoa I usually use does specify that it does not need to be rinsed. That said, when toasting quinoa I never rinse it (because I always feel like it would steam instead of toast) and have not noticed any bitterness.

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22 days ago Maggie K.

This looks great but I'd love to make it dairy free. Do you think you could substitute with almond milk or coconut milk and earth balance?

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20 days ago gingerroot

Hi Maggie,
I don't have much experience with dairy subs but based on my palate, I'd try coconut milk before almond milk. I've also not used earth balance. I'd love to hear your results if you give this a try.

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25 days ago Deborah Candland

confusing: why bother with gluten free tamari when using barley miso? barley, rye and wheat are the three sources of gluten.

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25 days ago gingerroot

I guess it depends on your tolerance. My husband, who has celiac, is sensitive to regular soy sauce, but does not seem to have any problem with miso of any sort.

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25 days ago Deborah Candland

regular soy sauce always has wheat in it; miso may or may not depending upon what it is made with. Celiac disease is too serious for your husband to be experimenting.

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25 days ago Deborah Candland

my husband and daughter both have celiac disease, so this is our way of life. I read all labels

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25 days ago gingerroot

I hope you try this with a gf miso and let me know what you think. Thank you for your comments.

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25 days ago Deborah Candland

it does look yummy, which is why I was reading these recipes. Just thought the GF specification about the miso and not about the soy sauce was incongruous. Thanks

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26 days ago triestoeathealthy

This sounds wonderful! My husband is not fond of "orange" dressing, though. Can you recommend a substitute for the orange juice?

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25 days ago gingerroot

You could try using lemon juice. White wine vinegar might also work. Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try!

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25 days ago triestoeathealthy

Will do, thanks!

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almost 2 years ago healthierkitchen

I would never have thought to cook the quinoa this way - what a creative and delicious idea that I will have to try soon!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, hk. Let me know what you think if you try it.

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18 days ago Beth

I made this and loved it as a summer lunch--no need to think of it just as a side dish!
As yummy as it was, the big discovery for me was your way of cooking quinoa. Miso gives the quinoa such a delicate but flavourful balance, that I plan to have this as a base for many future dishes!

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18 days ago gingerroot

Thanks for letting me know, Beth! So glad you enjoyed this.

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almost 2 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Yep! I would eat this all up!!!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, a! It also makes delicious leftovers...I had it for lunch a few days in a row.

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almost 2 years ago EmilyC

This is really lovely, gingerroot. Love the sounds of this method of cooking quinoa...yum!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, EmilyC! Although delicious with the addition of grilled veggies and dressing, cooked this way the quinoa is worthwhile on its own as well.

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almost 2 years ago Panfusine

Wow... this sounds Fabulous.. I can mentally taste the miso & quinoa together.. Beautiful pairing!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thanks for such a lovely comment, panfusine. The miso really adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the quinoa.

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almost 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I would never have thought to grill cucumbers. Nicely done!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thank you, hla!

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almost 2 years ago lorigoldsby

I love how you take so many points of inspiration and create a truely inspired dish! I hope I'm brave enough to try grilling the cukes...might just sub the zukes!

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, Lori! I hope you do try grilling the cukes, they are delicious! Zucchini would also be good, though I really liked that the cucumbers maintained their crunch. Let me know if you try it.