Miso Quinoa Pilaf with Grilled Cucumber, Eggplant and Soy Dressing

By • August 13, 2012 • 12 Comments

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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

Serves 4-6 as a side

For the Pilaf

  • 1 large English cucumber
  • 2 small long eggplants, about 5-6" (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
  • 3 T 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 17-20 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 7-8 for eggplant. Flip and grill skin side down for 2-3 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. 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

  • ¼ c gluten free tamari
  • ¼ c balsamic vinegar
  • Juice from ½ an orange (about ¼ c)
  • ¼ c 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 ¼ cup, about 6-7 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.

Comments (12) Questions (0)


over 1 year 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!


over 1 year ago gingerroot

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


over 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Yep! I would eat this all up!!!


over 1 year ago gingerroot

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


over 1 year ago EmilyC

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


over 1 year 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.


over 1 year ago Panfusine

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


over 1 year ago gingerroot

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


over 1 year ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

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


over 1 year ago gingerroot

Thank you, hla!


over 1 year 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!


over 1 year 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.