This yummy pilaf is a simple way to enjoy quinoa, the high-protein "grain" (technically, it's a berry) that hails from the Andes mountains of South America. Quinoa grains are quite small, so take the time to dice the vegetables very finely so everything will be well distributed in the finished dish.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the quinoa. Stir around with your fingers for a moment, then transfer to a fine-mesh strainer. Hold the strainer under the tap and rinse the quinoa with cold water for a few seconds, then set it aside to drain.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Stir and saute for 3 minutes. Add the quinoa, garlic, and thyme, then stir and saute for 3 minutes longer. Add the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pan stand without disturbing the lid for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the sunflower and sesame seeds separately by placing them in a single layer in a dry, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan frequently as the seeds toast. When they have turned a darker shade of tan and emit a toasty aroma, immediately remove them from the pan and set aside.

Transfer the pilaf to a serving dish, add the toasted seeds, and toss with two forks to break up any clumps and distribute the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately.

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