Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Key Who?" or Cooking with Grains You Can't Pronounce

I've been seeing "quinoa" popping up a lot lately -- apparently this is some SUPERGRAIN that makes a perfect protein all by itself (no pesky pairing of grain + legume), is easy to prepare, and can take on the character and taste of whatever it's paired with. I've seen recipes for very savory, very sweet, and very neutral quinoa dishes. So a few days ago I dragged T to Wild Oats with the promise of a Sunrise smoothie to pick up some bulk quinoa.

As it turns out, this isn't pronounced "Kwi-NO-ah" as I had been referring to it, but "KEEN-wah." Go figure. Not unlike when I first asked for a book by "a-NAY" Nin and was condescendingly told (by the woman working the mall bookstore), "you mean 'anna-EES?'" But I digress.

What I know about quinoa could fill a thimble, but my reading on this grain told me that it has a bitter outer layer, which apparently is a naturally occurring pesticide. Consequently, you need to rinse quinoa well before using it, or the resulting dish will retain some of that bitter flavor. To rinse mine, I just put it in a fine seive and ran water over it for a minute or so.

I started with a basic recipe for Quinoa Pilaf from How to Cook Everything, and then gussied it up a little, adding the garbonzo beans I'd been craving, sprinkling in some spices, and finishing it with the Nigella seeds I'd picked up at Dean and Deluca last fall and never quite known how to use.

The result was amazing. I'd like to think I'll be taking it in my lunch next week, but I'm not positive it'll make it through the night. Phil's off at an Eisenhower Field Day gig, I rented Borat for the evening, and I can completely see that the evening could end up with me bloated and moaning on the TV room couch, the deep skillet that held enough quinoa for four lying abandoned and empty next to me. It's that good.

If you haven't tried quinoa and want to give it a whirl, why not try this easy recipe? I used this as a main dish, but it would be great without the garbonzo beans (or with, if you're on a protein bender), eaten as a side dish with meat.

Quinoa with Garbonzo Beans and Nigella

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped small
1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1 3/4 to 2 cups broth (I used chicken)
1/2 tsp. or so sea salt
a few grinds of pepper
1/4 tsp. or so ancho powder, garam marsala, or any other spice you like
1 15-oz. can garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
a few sprinklings Nigella

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and stir around for about 5 minutes, until the onion softens. Add the rinsed quinoa and stir around for another 5 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, as well as the sea salt, pepper, and ancho powder; stir; and cover. Let this cook for about 15 minutes -- until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is no longer crunchy. If the quinoa isn't yet soft but the liquid is gone, add another 1/4 cup broth and give it another couple minutes to cook, covered. Once the quinoa is soft, if there's still liquid left, uncover it and stir until the liquid is largely absorbed.

Stir in the garbonzo beans. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds. Devour.

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Blogger Jose said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Jose said...

Ha! Borat :)
Some parts of that movie were hard to watch without squirming. And I felt that some people they played tricks on, showed remarkable self-restraint.

I will look for quinoa next time I am in a grocery store.

10:03 PM  
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