Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Quinoa as a Side or Star Player!

When I lived in Peru, I was introduced to many new foods I'd never heard of before: quinoa is one of them. Funny because I kind of forgot about it, until about ten years ago when Chef Rafael Palomino and I were working on our second collaboration, Nueva Salsa. (In fact, we have two quinoa salsas in that book!).

Though quinoa (pronounced Key-NO-ah) has been part of the diet of many Peruvians for centuries (and has been called the Mother Grain of the Incas), this nutty-flavored seed has only recently made its appearance in the United States. But, almost like mojitos (okay--I know I may be stretching a bit here!), it's taken many by storm.

So what is it about quinoa that's made it so popular? Well, it's flavorful, versatile, and boasts a protein content superior to most grains. On top of that, it's very easy to cook! In fact, it takes about 15 minutes.

I like quinoa with fish−and so I decided to make it on Sunday, when I made baked salmon. And, I'm happy to say, it was a big hit−even with my dad (who, as many of you know, is often my barometer as far as defining what's good!).
Here I also topped it with red onions and scallions, which I sautéed separately, in a little bit of oil, and with just a bit of white wine, salt and pepper. You can also serve it as a "bed" for your favorite fish, or combine it with a variety of vegetables (as you would cous-cous!) or even fruit (mango works well with quinoa!).

So, where can you find quinoa? At pretty much any health food store, large market, and at one of my haunts: Trader Joe's (actually there is a tri-color quinoa at Trader Joe's−and that's what I used here).

Basic cooked quinoa
(serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a larger dish)

1 cup quinoa--rinsed well several times, and drained
2 cups water or your favorite broth

In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa with the water or broth. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook about 10 or 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. It's easy to see when the quinoa is cooked  because  because the seeds display a little white thread that curls around them (as in the picture above!). Enjoy warm−or at room temperature.


  1. How funny ... we both wrote about quinoa today and didn't even know! I used it with sweet potatoes and pecans! cool!

    1. Ah! Great minds think alike! Have to check out your recipe! I'm going to continue "playing" with quinoa--and am thinking of making cookies. In the meantime, still enjoying it--last night with pineapple salsa...and toasted pecans (funny 'bout the pecan thing, but it does add a fabulous flavor and texture contrast!). Very cool!!!!