Since Friday night, I have cooked pretty much nonstop: Hazelnut & Apricot Scones; Chocolate, Hazelnut and Espresso Shortbread; so many variations of miniature quiche I lost count (hundreds of them); Roasted Carrot Hummus; Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Spread; Crostini; Pork Tenderloin with Orange and Pomegranate Molasses; Potstickers; Chicken Satay; Stuffed Rolled Turkey Filet; Roast Turkey, made into sandwiches with Maple-Orange Sweet Potatoes; Roasted Beet, Purple Potato and Carrot Skewers; Espresso Chocolate Chunk Brownies; and Coconut Milk & Ice Wine Chocolate Truffles, not to mention the menu from last night.
Today, being Sunday, the sound of racing on TV triggered a Pavlovian response in me – an urge to putter around the kitchen and bake scones or something. But I resisted; instead we went to the Bowlerama.
I swore last night I wouldn’t cook dinner tonight, and I didn’t. We ordered pizza. I’d like to say I’m sick of food; sadly, I don’t ever seem to tire of it, unless I’m pregnant. (I’m not.)
But here’s something: I went for coffee at Cafe Rosso last week with a few friends, one of whom picked up a vegan bar made with quinoa. I was shocked to learn that my friend A*, who is vegetarian, had never heard of the stuff. (Although come to think of it, it is entirely possible she may just not have recognized the proper pronounciation – KEEN-wah – and just thought it was something new to her. The teeny uncooked specks in the bar were hardly recognizable.) Nevertheless I dropped off a bag on her mailbox today, and was going to email her cooking instructions, but decided to do it here instead. Not only because I think everyone who is getting more than a little tired of rice should know how to make quinoa, but just because I know she reads this blog.
Here are my top 11 reasons you should try quinoa:
1 ) it contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it an excellent source (about 20%) of complete protein. (In fact, the WHO claims that quinoa contains a better protein balance than any grain, being at least equal to milk in terms of protein quality)
2 ) it’s a good source of dietary fiber
3 ) it’s gluten free, and considered easily digestible
4 ) it makes you feel nutritionally in the know when you pronounce it properly in conversation
5 ) it’s high in B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid, vitamin E, iron and zinc
6 ) rice is so last millenium
7 ) its mild, nutty flavor lends itself well to soups, hot grain breakfast cereals, or really anything you’d use rice or couscous for. I bet it would make great rice pudding (except that you’d have to call it quinoa pudding)
8 ) it may be germinated in its raw form – germination activates natural enzymes and boosts vitamin content. Quinoa apparently has a short germination period: only 2-4 hours resting in between paper towel soaked in water is enough to make it sprout; this softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads etc.
9 ) it has a light, fluffy texture; isn’t hard or heavy like many other whole grains
10 ) it’s cheap, and you can buy it in bulk
11 ) like rice, you can freeze it in freezer bags once it has cooked and cooled, then thaw it for quick salads or side dishes, to throw into soup, etc.
The biggest thing to remember when cooking quinoa is to rinse it very well first – it usually has an invisible coating that tends to be bitter. Otherwise, you can just cook it like pasta, in a pot of boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or like rice: 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, boil, turn down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Easy.
* Names have been withheld to protect the reputation of innocent vegetarians.