Friday, October 17, 2008

The curious case of the quinoa in the nighttime. (VeganMoFo day 17.)

Oddly enough, along with my tomato and basil cream soup on Wednesday night, I also cooked quinoa. An atypical pairing, to be sure, but it's not like it horribly clashed or anything. It's just what I had on hand that needed to get cooked, and at the time I didn't know quite how filling the soup would be so it seemed we'd need a side dish. So it goes.

Quinoa is not rocket science. In fact, it's a lot more like rice. It basically involves one part grain to two parts liquid, and then a whole lot of simmering. Nevertheless, I spent about five years being too chicken to cook it.

To be fair, I'm also afraid of rice. To date I've had many, many, many more failures than successes with rice - I'd say the going rate is about four to one. So frustrating to invest an hour or more in something that's supposed to be so simple, only to end up with it being soupy or burnt or with a bunch of soap in it (long story). I can't even describe to you the relief I felt when someone finally mentioned to me that I could just buy pints of perfectly cooked brown or white rice from the Chinese place half a block from my apartment. Thank you ghetto Chinese!

So what makes this quinoa special is not just that I managed to cook it, though it is only my second attempt. I made me a flavorful quinoa, and that has made all the difference.

Perfectly Flavorful Quinoa

  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small to medium tomato, chunked
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1 3/4 cups stock
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • Do I need to mention that you're gonna caramelize your onion? It doesn't need to be all that caramel-ey; it just needs to get transparent and cooked and a little yellow and stuff.
  • Once your onion has achieved the above, add in your tomato and pepper and spices. Let them cook down for a while, until it's more mushy than liquidy.

  • Add in your stock and your dry quinoa. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Once properly cooked, the quinoa will look crazy: each grain will be sort of translucent, except for this white ring around its outer edge. If it's still white in the middle, it's not done. This built-in indicator system is part of the glory of quinoa. And luckily, it seems to be much less picky than rice about things like overcooking.
  • Let it sit uncovered for five to ten minutes before serving.
The number of servings this creates depends pretty much entirely on how much grain you like to eat at one time. I'd say that it easily makes four good sized servings.

The moral of today's story? Wheat, corn, and oats are not the end-all-be-all; don't forget your ancient grains!


For the Love of Guava said...

mmm... I recently was brave enough to try my hand quinoa too and the cooked state is fantastic looking!! that looks like a version of which I could down quite a bit of grain! :)

For the Love of Guava said...

ooh.. and interesting article on grains. thanks!

melissa bastian. said...

for a while now i've been fascinated by the way that such a select few grains sort of blew up in the profitable industry, while we've essentially lost so many others with all of their diversity and nutritional benefit. i like throwing quinoa back in the mix, even if it is just one more; that's one less night that i'm eating pasta made of wheat! plus it's just got such a good texture. and it looks cool. and yes, i admit it, i really like the word quinoa.