Monday, January 13, 2014

Quinoa today, Pimentón tomorrow.

Some people have trouble pronouncing it, others have trouble cooking it, but more importantly, if you don’t give your quinoa time to “bloom,” you’ll probably have trouble eating it.  Here’s the scoop:  Quinoa isn't supposed to be crunchy.   

Those tiny under-cooked grains are practically inedible, presenting a whole set of difficulties as to how to get rid of them in polite company.  I’m sure you understand.  This is especially awkward when a well-meaning newbie serves you under-cooked quinoa at a dinner gathering.  And yes, there are lots of recipes online for “crunchy quinoa” this and that, but I wonder why anyone would want to wrestle with them.   At the other end of the spectrum you can find all manner of recipes for quinoa soup.  Just as it’s not supposed to be crunchy, quinoa shouldn't be left to turn to mush in a bowl of broth. 

This centuries-old Andean grain is a relative newcomer to the North American food scene.  It’s a welcome and healthful alternative to rice or other carb-laden side dishes and it’s a great, inexpensive source of protein. 

Below you’ll find Michel’s quinoa recipe—well, today’s version anyway.  He tends to tweak the ingredients to complement whatever else he’s cooking.   Tomorrow we will get to his recipe for cannellini beans with pimentón.  (You might have already noticed those beans in their cozy little quinoa bed in the photo.)  

Quinoa with Coconut Milk and Meyer* Lemon
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ can coconut milk
  • Juice of ½ a Meyer lemon
  • Salt to taste
*In case you’re wondering, a Meyer lemon is a (less sour) cross between a regular lemon and an orange—probably a mandarin orange since the fruit is a Chinese invention. 

  • Place vegetable broth and quinoa in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. 
  • Reduce heat to low and cover.  NO PEEKING.  Let it bloom with the lid on.
  • After 15-20 minutes, check to see if the quinoa has bloomed.  (At this point it should have partially bloomed.)
  • Add remaining ingredients: pepper, coconut milk, lemon juice, salt to taste.
  • Stir over low heat, making sure that all the grains are fully bloomed and the liquid has been absorbed.
Your delicious, fully-bloomed quinoa can serve as an accompaniment to beans, lentils, or your favorite meat dish.  For a truly authentic quinoa experience, top with fried ripe plantains.  

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