I have been waiting to use that headline for a blog post for almost an entire year, basically since right after I started this blog. Say it out loud. Isn't it great? (For a time I walked around the apartment saying it out loud whenever I was making quinoa. I favored a sort of rap-esque cadence.)
So why did I wait so long to write a post about quinoa, the tiny little grain from South America? Because every time I made it, it tasted like poo. But don't worry! I have finally found a few fool proof ways to make this healthy, crunchy, protein-packed little grain delicious. *
But first, two indispensable prerequisites to any cooking with quinoa.
1) Soak it! The box won't tell you you need to do this, but if you don't, it will have a decidely bitter taste. (If you like that kind of thing, I guess you don't need to soak it.) The longer the better. I like to drop it in a bowl, cover it with water, and let it sit for an hour and a half or longer if I'm out of the apartment. But if you're short on time, at least soak it for 30 minutes.
2) Red quinoa is better than "traditional" or white quinoa. Ok, so that isn't really an indispensable prerequisite; I suppose it is a matter of taste. But what I'm getting at is, they taste very different, so if you try one variety and don't like it, still try the other.
So here is quinoa two ways. One for breakfast, the other for lunch or as a side with dinner.
Breakfast isn't so much a recipe. I just cook about 1/4 cup of quinoa, mix in a very small amount of butter while it's hot, then let it cool and store it in the fridge. I add a scoop to the top of my oatmeal in the morning. The heat from the oatmeal is enough to heat up the quinoa. Add some nuts and berries and you have lots of vitamins, whole grains, and protein.
Quinoa and Herb Salad
Inspired by 101 Salads
This is the quantity that I make. It is enough for two people for lunch, or for four people as a side. It can easily be doubled, and it keeps really well in the fridge for a few days. I like it even better the day after it is made.
1/2 cup red quinoa, soaked and rinsed (or traditional quinoa)
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped red onion (or to taste)
1 cup canned or cook chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about half a can)
1/2 tsp. salt
juice of one lemon
fresh ground black pepper to taste
-Cook the quinoa according to the package directions with the chicken stock or water.
-Drain any excess liquid when the quinoa is finished cooking and stir in the olive oil to prevent it from clumping.
-Chop your vegetables while the quinoa cools.
-Add all the remaining ingredients to the quinoa and stir.
-Serve at room temperature or cold. Keeps for several days in the fridge.
*Some notes about quinoa: It contains more high-quality protein than any other grain, it is the only complete protein grain, it is gluten free, and it was so important to Inca culture that they called it the Mother Grain. This is all according to the box, but I've read similar descriptions of this "superfood" elsewhere.