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Vegan Quinoa Pilaf with Leeks, Edamame, Red Chard and Mushrooms

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Yield: 8 servings

Today, our friends Diane O'Neal (who is also our top-notch dance teacher) and her partner Steven Taylor, invited us to his parents' charming cottage near the beach for a lovely Easter feast with friends and family. It seems that around every corner in their eclectic art- and flower-filled home were beautiful vignettes of good wines and delectable food. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for such an occasion--sunny and warm--with company and conversation to match the gorgeous food and setting.

For my contribution, I set out to make a quinoa and red lentil pilaf using a recipe that I wanted to adapt. But I overcooked the lentils, which turned out to be a happy accident because I turned them into a Vegan Red Lentil and Pistachio Spread. I also didn't have enough quinoa, so I mixed it with an equal amount of millet. Another happy "misfortune." In the fridge, I had some leeks that I substituted for the onion and ravishing red chard that I subbed for regular chard. Since I couldn't use the lentils, I needed another legume and decided on edamame, which I didn't have, but I needed to run to the grocery store to purchase the mushrooms anyway. I do believe that the combination was spot-on in terms of texture, taste and color. A sprinkling of nutritional yeast deepened the flavors in just the right way and a garnish of pea sprouts and lemon zest finished off this hearty and savory, but springy, dish.

1 tablespoon olive oil
*2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced, and rinsed and drained if sandy
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
3 cloves garlic, sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 quart vegetable stock
*2 bay leaves
1 cup quinoa
*1 cup millet
(Note: you can use 2 cups of either quinoa or millet instead of 1 cup of each)
*1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) frozen, shelled edamame
*1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
*scant tablespoon of dried tarragon
*1 bunch red chard (green is fine too), stems removed and processed in a food processor until it is coarse-fine
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
*Garnish: pea shoots or fresh parsley sprigs, sliced lemon and the zest of half of a lemon

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add leeks and a pinch of salt and saute until the leeks start to soften, stirring frequently. Add a tablespoon of water if they seem to get too dry too quickly. Add garlic and mushrooms and continue sauteing, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have softened. Add stock and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Stir in quinoa and millet and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until mixture becomes very thick. (Note: for the first 10 minutes or so, it will seem that nothing is happening. Then, rather suddenly, the grains puff and begin absorbing the moisture quickly.) During the last 2-3 minutes, stir in edamame. When finished cooking, turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast, tarragon and chard. Cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes, tossing every once in a while, until chard is wilted. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Garnish as desired and serve warm.

Source: Adapted from "Lipitor" at Allrecipes.com
*Indicates my additions or substitutions

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