Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Things to do with quinoa that are actually delicious

One of the NYTime's top articles this week has been a recipe for a spicy quinoa salad.  This reminded me that when people first started going nuts for quinoa, it was one of those things like Justin Bieber for me--everyone is talking about it, but you're not sure what it is, and you don't get the fuss either way.  Then I tried it, both eating it and cooking with it, and it became one of those things like kombucha, which everyone tells you you're supposed to like, but you just find a little weird.  After much trial-and-error, though, I finally learned how to appreciate quinoa, and in fact now enjoy cooking with it, both due to its health benefits, and because it actually tastes ok!  The big thing that helped me to start liking quinoa was to learn to overcook it.  Most recipes say to cook it just until the thread around the grain becomes visible, but at this point, to me, it still tastes like bugs.  (Sorry for the imagery, but now you know why I don't like quinoa.  Beetle shells, I am telling you.)  I generally cook it for about ten minutes after this point, giving it a much more rice-like texture.  Try cooking white quinoa this way with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It actually tastes good!  Red quinoa doesn't get as soft, and seems to go better with acidic sauces like a lemon vinaigrette and fresh herbs.  Below is one of my favorite quinoa recipes, courtesy of femonomics contributor Mad Dr.

Mad Dr's Quinoa pilaf

Cover 1 cup white quinoa with 2 cups water, a small drizzle of oil, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Continue cooking, adding water as necessary, until about ten minutes after threads become visible (or until quinoa is soft).  Meanwhile, saute 1/2 chopped onion with 2 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil.  When onions are translucent, add 2 chopped celery ribs and 2 chopped carrots.  Add 1 T butter.  Saute until carrots are tender.  Add cooked quinoa, and continue stirring over heat for 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

The onion, celery, and carrot is what the french call a mirepoix, and provides a vegetable-broth taste to the pilaf, meaning no additional seasoning is necessary.  Mad Dr also adds chopped bell peppers to this, added near the end of cooking.  I like to add toasted pine nuts.  You can add any other vegetable (cooked eggplant sounds good0, or even a protein such as cubed tofu or chicken to make a complete meal.  Add dried fruit, like currants, to give it a fall flavor.

Did you also go through a quinoa=yuck stage?  Have you made any recipes with it that changed your mind?  Post your best quinoa recipe below!

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