I used to think that pilafs always started with rice and then Food52-er deensiebat set me straight. A pilaf can start with any grain and, if you’re crafty enough, can turn into a one-pot meal along the way. Behold one of the most beloved recipes on our site:
Deena uploaded the recipe on New Year’s Day 2010 and, in the years since, it’s been favorited over 12,000 times. It’s as nourishing and hearty as it is easy and quick.
Basically, you bring some salty water to a boil, add quinoa, cover, and let simmer away. Partway through cooking, you add some chopped kale to steam. When both are done, they get tossed with lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil, pine nuts, and goat cheese.
I wanted to summer-fy this.
So I swapped out the kale for sweet corn and tiny tomatoes. Also, the goat cheese for feta, which is less melty and brighter and brinier, like diving into the ocean. The pine nuts made way for sunflower seeds. And I added some fresh mint for, well, freshness, and red pepper flakes for a little kick to keep you on your toes.
The result has the same spirit as the original, just wearing a different outfit—a swimsuit, if you will. It’s as perfect for a quickie weeknight dinner as it is for a pool party or backyard BBQ. And, lucky us, any leftovers make for the very best picnic side.
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, toasted, plus more to top
- 1/2 cup roughly mint, plus more to top
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Have you made the famous quinoa pilaf before? Tell us how you'd play around with the recipe in the comments!