Because quinoa is fairly new to the American diet, I couldn't find any reference to it in my printed dictionary (which was published in 1976, making it older than I am -- maybe I should stop using it), in the The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, in Starting with Ingredients, or in The Flavor Bible, so I really had to dig and defer to some more modern sources to give you some details about this mighty seed.
"Quinoa is definitely a superfood: A grain-like seed, it's a 'complete' protein containing eight essential amino acids...." - Food & Wine, March 2010
"A 'pseudo cereal' native to the Andes, quinoa is mild and slightly nutty, with a beautiful, pillowy texture that's a little like couscous." - Cookthink
"Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume." - Epicurious
What you should know: Quinoa packs a huge punch of protein, cooks up quickly and easily, and can be used in place of rice or couscous in most recipes. I like it much better than both rice and couscous, however, it does have to do battle with Israeli couscous to earn the top spot with me.
I've eaten quinoa out at restaurants before, but until I tried this recipe, I had never cooked it at home. This is one of those times I want to kick myself for not being on the ball. I have no excuses for why I've waited so long to make couscous at home. It's delicious, easy, and versatile. I loved it in this recipe, but I imagine many of you have more ways to use it and lots of great ideas to send my way, so make sure you leave some comments directing me to your favorite quinoa recipes. And if you have some time, give this one a try too. It's so light and fresh!
It's kind of funny and probably backward from what many of you do, but I am very experimental with my lunches (because they're just for me) and more basic with dinners (because I cook for my boyfriend too). While I love things like Israeli couscous, quinoa, and barley (great recipe coming soon), he's much happier with braised short ribs and smashed potatoes, chicken piccata, or spaghetti and meatballs. I figure I get the best of both worlds: new and fabulous things for lunch and delicious, familiar foods for dinner.
Because I was just making this for myself, I halved the recipe. The version below will just make two servings. I had half as a filling lunch and then had the other half for dinner with a piece of breaded and fried fish. Also, the original recipe calls for golden raisins, and I decided to leave them out (one less ingredient to purchase), but as I was throwing this together, I remembered I had a tub of currants in the pantry, so I substituted those for the golden raisins. I left out the mint because I just wasn't sure that flavor combination would work for me, and I left out the parsley as well because I didn't think it would add anything significant.
While I've told you in the past that I don't really count calories, I do pay some attention to how much fiber and protein I'm getting, and this recipe provides 9 grams of each per serving, which is half a squash! I'm definitely happy with that.
Roasted Delicata Squash With Quinoa Salad (adapted from Food & Wine)
1 Delicata squash
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon currants
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 cup arugula
Preheat the oven to 350°. Halve and seed squash. Brush the cut sides of the squash with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and season the cavities with salt and pepper.
Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the currants, and simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, honey, shallot, and garlic with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the quinoa along with the apple, and toss well.
Add the arugula, and toss gently.
Set the squash halves on plates.
Fill with the salad, and serve.
On a side note, I've made a couple of recipes lately with sherry vinegar (like this lentil soup), and I'm starting to think I'm developing a small obsession with it. For some reason, it adds just the right flavor and is great for perking up dishes like this. Along with recommending that you try quinoa, I'm also promoting sherry vinegar. Get some. You'll love it.
Okay, so quinoa -- are you in or out? What are your favorite ways to use it?