Risotto, the classic Italian rice dish, was the inspiration for this hearty side dish. Healthier than rice, quinoa ("KEEN-wah") is a South American grain that resembles couscous in texture and flavor, though it has a more pronounced nuttiness. Quinoa is considered a "super food": not only does it have more protein than any other grain, but it's a complete protein because it contains all 8 essential amino acids. As if this weren't enough to convince you to try it, it also cooks in much less time and can be used in just about any way you'd use rice. For a more substantial meal, add diced vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, beans, or asparagus during the cooking process, or leafy greens such as spinach or arugula in the last few minutes of cooking.
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water to remove any residual husks. Allow to drain thoroughly.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet (preferably nonstick), heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and cook without stirring for 3 or 4 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Then stir the mushrooms and continue cooking until they're brown and tender, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Set aside while you make the "risotto."
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, taking care not to burn it.
Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly until the grains are hot, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the hot stock to the pan and bring the mixture to the start of a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced and the quinoa has begun to soften. Stir in the mushrooms and the grated Parmegiano, and cook until the cheese melts and the mushrooms are heated through, about 2 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, then divide among heated, shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and a sprinkle of thyme, if using. Serve hot.