Red Quinoa is what I found in the grain bin.
The Incas grew it, the Spaniards squelched it upon conquest, history happened, and I found it in the grain bin. Food was once based on what was available. Sort of still the case, but the circumstances have changed. I found a pre-measured, vacuum sealed bag of red quinoa in the rice/grain basket in the cabinet. I think it was dated 2016, but it was sealed, so it was fine. Red quinoa became the base of the dish for two reasons: one) it was in the basket and two) its slightly nutty flavor complemented the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. In ancient times, quinoa may have just been what was available, and so it was what hit the dinner plate. In today’s kitchen, we purposefully seek and hunt for foods, once thought exotic, that are now commonly found on grocery to health food store shelves. Ultimately many end up in the pantry.
Red, white, black quinoa? What’s the difference?
Who ever knew we would be asking the difference between quinoa, when ten years ago, we had no clue what it was? White (oft called regular or yellow) is the one most frequently found on store shelves. Taste is of personal preference, and red is my favorite. I find that they all have a nuttiness to the flavor, but it is more pronounced in the white (some say a bit bitter), softer in the red, and slightly stronger again in the black. Nutritionally they are all similar with a variation on the theme. Color aside, they all cook the same and can be used interchangeably in recipes. Never feel restricted by the color choice in a recipe, and if you find a bag in the bin, substitute away. A few years ago, I would say that the red and black were harder to find, but they are pretty mainstream.
Where does quinoa come from?
Quinoa has a fascinating history. From obscurity to infamy and back again. Originally grown by the Andean people (as in the Andes Mountain range that extends through South America), the grain was considered to be a source of strength, power and was used in religious ceremonies. It was a superfood before there was a term. When the Spaniards conquered the Incas, they squelched the production of the quinoa and replaced it with (quelle surprise) wheat. Lost as a staple food for many years, it has found a new place in the modern kitchen and can be used in a variety of ways.
How does it compare to rice?
Like rice, it can be used as a base for most any dish. It is boiled in water until the tiny grains pop open and the hulls split. Undercooked it is like little pebbles and overcooked it is mush. Some would say cooked until it is al dente works, I prefer it to have a little stability to it, but not too much. Put it into the category of trial and error. There is no perfect way to cook it, so cook it to where it is soft enough for your eaters. Nutritionally, rice and quinoa offer benefits with various minerals and vitamins, each one being higher in some and lower in others. Taste and texture are the primary differences. Brown and white rice are fairly mild in taste, and quinoa is more distinct and will stand out in a dish. As you cook more with it, the more it will seem a staple part of the kitchen repertoire.
Fall brings out the grains in a different way.
In the summer I think of grains as the base of a side salad or blended with fresh tomatoes and parsley, as in Tabouli (classic or a modern twist with feta). Served warm, it makes me feel like it is a heartier base for a meal. As the garden produces its last of the summer squash prior to becoming hard enough to be used as baseball bats, tossed with robust shallots, delicate Delicata and a cumin-scented tomato sauce, this dish had fall written all over it. But do not stop at vegetable toppings, quinoa is ever so versatile, and whether topped with vegetables, fish or meat, it adds a nice flavor dimension to many dishes.
Quinoa based salads from Food & Wine
Quinoa Chicken Nuggets from Creme de la Crumb (do you think the kids will notice-hah!)
Quinoa Fried “Rice” with Pork from Simply Quinoa
Perfectly Fluffy Quinoa from The Kitchn (yes to rinsing, not necessary to toast)
Quinoa, Roasted Vegetables & Tomato Cumin SaucePrint Recipe
- 8oz/230g quinoa (red, white or black)
- 16 fl oz/500ml water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 medium Delicata squash, seeded and sliced
- 3 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 3 small to medium summer squash, sliced
- 16 fl oz/500ml tomato sauce (seasoned or plain)
- 1 TBSP ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C
Prepare vegetables and place in a rimmed baking dish.
Toss with the tomato sauce, cumin and season with salt and pepper.
Place in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes.
To make quinoa:
Rinse in a sieve and drain.
Place quinoa in a saucepan and add water and salt.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer.
Watch that the water does not boil away.
Cook for 15-20 minutes to desired softness.
To assemble dish:
Place drained quinoa in a bowl, top with the steaming roasted vegetables. Voila!
Want to make it for the carnivore in the group? Cube some chicken or beef and roast it with the vegetables. Cook accordingly. Makes a nice hearty dish on its own merit or can be the perfect side to roasted or grilled chicken, pork or fish. Let us know how you made it! Perhaps you would like to submit a guest post? Check out the "Collaborate" link above.