Keen on Quinoa
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
So like in my quest for a healthy, whole food, seasonal, local diet that I love and am excited about, I've been trying new foods and recipes...I've got kale and homemade hummus under my belt, so now's the time to try that grain I keep hearing about that's supposed to be super-healthy and full of all kinds of crap that'll make you live forever: quinoa.
But I really didn't know anything about it except that there was that one chick who tried to cook it on Top Chef and failed miserably because she undercooked it. So I was feeling some trepidation as I entered my local Whole Foods looking for it. At least I DID know how to pronounce it (KEEN-wa...say it! Keen-wa! Keen-wa! I was doing that for an entire evening after I heard about it on a food show; my DH, bless his heart, remained unfazed.) I was feeling rather "in the know" when I found a darling little proto-hippie working there and asked for it by name, only to be kind of deflated when she's all "Red or white? Pilaf mix? Packaged? Bulk?" And looking at me all cheerily expectant.
Oy. Here I thought I was so fancy knowing how to SAY it.
"Er, white, I guess? Packaged?"
She smiled, a bit knowingly I thought, as if she knew that the concept of bulk red quinoa made me feel a little faint. She told me which aisle and trotted off, undoubtedly to go prepare the outer bran of something for her lunch, and I shouldered my way past all the yoga-mat-toting fifty-somethings to the grains and pasta aisle, and surveyed the selection.
I picked up the least threatening-looking package and read the directions, hoping this wouldn't call for some extravagant rinsing and washing and overnight soaking (or is that dried beans?) but hmm...not too bad; in fact, kind of like couscous, which I've cooked before, albeit from a pre-flavored package...just bring to a boil in water or broth, reduce heat and -- whoa -- what's this:
"Let simmer until quinoa is tender and the protein spiral is released."
OK, hold on a sec -- is it just me or does that sound like something they'd say on a Discovery Channel special on the mating habits of algae?! Why would they put that so baldly on the package, as if anyone would be happy to have protein spirals releasing all over their kitchen??? Eventually, though, after reading some other, more informative packages, I found that this was normal for quinoa, and not dangerous at all, and actually just how it cooks and what gives the grain its nice "bite". Still.
I took it home and looked around the Internets for a tasty-sounding recipe. As usual I ended up getting the gist of it and then looking for stuff in my kitchen to use. I ended up with this:
1 cup of dry quinoa
2 cups of chicken broth
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
Couple grinds of pepper
2 tsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-low and sweat the shallots until soft. Add all the other ingredients, stir, cover and simmer for 20 mins, or until there are a bunch of released protein spirals flying around your kitchen. :)
I used shallots, 'cause Anthony Bourdain said if you want to do one easy thing to make your food more like restaurant food, use shallots. It smelled geat while it was cooking and I'm sure it would've been fantastic...if I hadn't burned it. Gah!!! Well...I didn't QUITE burn it...but it was a leeetle crispy around the edges...but we scooped out the "good stuff" and ate it anyway and it was really good! Definitely kind of like couscous except a little chewier and more flavorful, but that might've been the shallots. And so good for you, especially for its protein content...great for those poor, misguided souls among us who are vegetarians (Kidding!!! But how can one not live life without BACON, fergodsakes?!)
We liked it enough that I cooked it again a couple nights later and finally succeeded in not burn -- er, crisping it, and it really was great. Oddly, it reminds me a bit, in texture, of the sort of slight chewiness to the Malt-o-Meal I used to eat when I was a kid. I wonder -- you probably COULD eat it like a breakfast cereal! But maybe minus the shallots...
(KEEN-wa! KEEN-wa! KEEN-wa!)