There’s something distinctive about leeks that makes them uniquely delicious. I’m not sure what it is, but they’re not just any old onion. We’ve learned a lot about substitutions in cooking, but I truly can’t think of another ingredient that can quite capture their flavor. So when I saw leeks make their appearance at our local farmer’s market, I couldn’t wait to use them!
This recipe was intended as a stuffing for some acorn squash (another market find), but it was so delicious that we wanted to share it as a side dish recipe of its own. The flavor of the leeks mixed with the fresh sage and thyme made for a wonderful savory combination; we’d highly recommend using fresh herbs if you can get ahold of them! And if you’ve never made quinoa, this is a great way to try it out – it’s one of our favorite nutritious grains (and gluten-free, if you’re cooking for someone that is)!
Try this idea in a Thanksgiving or other special meal as an alternative to traditional bread stuffing.
Quinoa with Leeks and Herbs
Serves 4 to 6 as a side
Notes: If you don’t have fresh sage or thyme handy, you can substitute dried. However, we highly recommend finding some fresh herbs to get the full effect of this dish! The rule of thumb is to substitute three parts fresh herb to one part dried; here we’d use about 1 tablespoon rubbed sage and 1 1/2 tablespoons whole thyme. Only use ground dried herbs if that’s all you can find; if so, you can use even less!
This tastes best when the quinoa is freshly made, so if you can, try to time it so that you can serve right away.
What You Need
1 1/2 cups quinoa (white, red, or mixed)
1 pound leeks (we used 2 medium leeks, about 1/2 pound each)
1/4 cup fresh sage
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 Make the quinoa: Cook the quinoa following the instructions found at Master Recipe: Perfect Quinoa, using 1 1/2 cups quinoa and 2 1/4 cups water. While the quinoa cooks, complete Step 2 and 3.
2 Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop off the dark green stems of the leeks, then slice them in half length-wise. Place each leek half cut-side down on the cutting board, then chop it into thin slices (resulting in half-moon shapes). There will be dirt in between each layer of the leeks, so when you’ve finished chopping them, rinse them thoroughly in a colander. Remove the leaves of the thyme, and chop the sage leaves. If not already chopped, roughly chop the walnuts (we usually place them in a bag or towel and hit them with the back of a spoon).
3 In a skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the leeks, and saute about 4 minutes, just before they begin to brown. While you saute the leeks, toast the walnuts – place them in a small skillet and toast over low heat, until slightly browned. (Make sure to watch so they don’t burn!)
4 When the quinoa is done, stir in the sauteed leeks. Then add the fresh sage, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Taste, and add more salt or pepper to taste, as well as a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Top with walnuts and serve immediately.