This started out as a reply to Dianna's comment below, but it ended up long enough that I decided to make a post of it.

I should begin by saying that I'm not, based on past evidence, the world's greatest quinoa advocate. I think my heart's in the right place, but I haven't found the proper way to put into words why it's so good. On multiple occasions my advocacy has begun "I love quinoa! It tastes sorta like grass, or maybe corn husks!" To elaborate: Quinoa has a nice fluffy texture once cooked, with an interesting subtle crunchiness. It's tasty and fresh and moist, and it honestly does taste a lot like grass. But in a good way!

Quinoa also has the advantage that it cooks up notably faster than any other grain I've encountered. There's no need to roast or sauté it beforehand, and once you've boiled the water and reduced to a simmer it only takes about 15 minutes to cook. One note: Be sure to rinse your quinoa a couple or times before cooking. It has a natural insect repellant husk that doesn't cook and is really hard. They generally get all the husks off by the time it gets to market, but you're better off erring on the safe side and washing it. The way to cook it, basically, is just to combine 2 parts water or stock to 1 part quinoa, seasoning to taste, heat to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer. It also seems to have a much friendlier margin of error than other grains; I've screwed up millet, kasha, polenta and rice, but never quinoa. As a side note, I've never screwed up barley either, but that's because I've cooked barley on its own maybe twice. Fibrous though it may be, it's far too bland for my taste.

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of recommendations for integrating it into meals or more elaborate recipes; I tend toward very simple cooking with a minimum of ingredients (largely because my pinch-penny nature keeps me from buying embellishments for my meals. Just staples for me, thanks). I compensate for this by keeping a well-stocked spice cabinet. Quinoa is somewhat light and sweet in flavor, but I find pepper, both black and cayenne, can be combined with it safely. Garlic works fine with it, and if you lack stock, putting a bay leaf or two in the water initially can help. I could see curry powder and other combinations of Indian spices working with it, but I tend to prefer those on a denser grain, like Millet. I could also conceive of trying to make it a sweet dish with sugar and sweet spices, like cinnamon, though I make no warranty about this as I haven't tried it yet.

Also, according to Mark Bittman, you can make a sort of quinoa pilaf by using stock to cook it in and sautéing some onions with it. I haven't tried this myself as I don't really get along very well with onions, but it seems worth a short.

To conclude, quinoa has rapidly become my favorite grain, supplanting millet. It's tasty, nutritious, has a great texture, and I never get tired of it.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on August 25, 2005 10:44 PM.

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