Quinoa has been on my mind for two reasons lately.
The first, as I’ve written about here, is that HRH, (my “Handsome Russian Husband”) decided we should go on Orthodox Lent, thereby cutting out meat, fish, dairy, oils, and alcohol. His mother tried to convince me it isn’t about the food, but if you’d spent the week trying to come up with creative ways to use avocado and applesauce where any right-thinking person would use cream, eggs, and olive oil, you could be forgiven for focusing a bit on the food side of things.
I decided to take my need to beef up (no pun intended, but God I could murder a burger) the grain side of my repertoire to some of you loyal readers. So, we’ve had a few quinoa classes over at LavkaLavka’s gastro studio, and I think we’ve all become converts!
What is Quinoa?
Packed with more protein and minerals than almost all other foods, quinoa (pronounced “keen-woh”) is an ancient grass, and its seeds were a primary food group in the diet of the ancient Mayans and Azetcs. Quinoa has an impressive 6,000 year history and today, quinoa is enjoying a roaring return to popularity amongst foodies on at least four continents. It’s a staple of healthy living and vegetarian lifestyles, as it is wheat and gluten free.
How to Cook Quinoa:
The best way to cook quinoa is to rinse the grains in a sieve, then add 1 1/4-cup of water for each 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to fluff it up. You will find that the yield for quinoa is 3 cups of cooked quinoa for one cup of uncooked quinoa. You can keep quinoa in this state for about 4-6 days in a covered container in the fridge. Add it to vegetable soups or to bulk up a salad.
Recipe for Quinoa:
We’ve talked about this before on the Moscovore: quinoa is seriously bland. One of our participants described it as “eating cardboard,” which is a fairly accurate portrayal of what just plain quinoa tastes like. The trick is to infuse it with flavor, as we’ve done before with Orange Sesame Quinoa with Dried Cherries. I wanted to create a reliable side dish that could stand up on its own for the vegan crowd, but also pair nicely with a chicken, pork or beef. The obvious choice was what the foodie world is now calling “quinotto,” fusing the idea of risotto with quinoa.
To be honest, there’s not much “otto” about quinotto. I tried it several ways before I hit the right method. Adding a little bit of liquid at a time to the grain produced a mushy sticky substance, so instead, I cooked the quinoa and then added it to sautéed onions and mushrooms, and then added more liquid, and finished it with a little cream and some parmesan. Gone was the cardboard taste!
To add color, texture, and flavor to the quinotto, as well as making it into a one-meal dish, I topped the quinotto with roasted eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. The danger here is that the vegetables can get soggy and float away on a lake of their own juices. To prevent this, I seeded and cored the eggplant, then salted the and let it “leech” its bitter juices. I cored the center of the zucchini where a lot of the water is stored, but I reserved this for the stock bag or Green Soup. I added peppers for color and crunch, roasted the vegetables, then topped the entire thing with fresh tomatoes and basil.
The result is a hearty and healthy dish that pairs well with most meat, and can stand stalwartly alone as a one-meal dish! So, give it a try!
Mushroom Quinotto with Roasted Vegetables
*You can use fresh, sautéed mushrooms for this dish if you prefer.
Prepare the Vegetables
Prepare the Quinotto
Finishing the Dish:
If you would like to sign up for a cooking workshop, check the listings on the home page of The Moscovore!
Readers, what is your favorite way to serve quinoa? Have you tried Quinotto?
For more quinoa recipes here on the Moscovore, try:
Lemon Garlic Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus
For more great quinoa recipes from around the web, try some of these: