Against the Grain: Quinoa

The more I delve into this wide world of grains, the more I’m finding a disconcerting trend in the recipes I find. While one might conventionally praise an ingredient for its taste, how it can balance a dish, even for its luscious texture, grains are often lauded for something entirely different. Their nutritional benefit. I haven’t found this to be true with any grain more so than with quinoa.

Did you know it’s the perfect protein? It’s got vitamins in it! Oh, the fiber, my god the fiber!

Great. It’s good for me. So is most everything else I eat after I swore off HFCS and got into my CSA. And if it’s something that’s not ‘good for me’ in a conventional sense, like, say, a bacon cheeseburger from Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, I assure you, it’s good for me in a whole host of other ways. I’m much better for having eaten that burger.

Right, so quinoa. It’s good for me. Solid. What else does it do?
Well, unlike the treacherous wheatberries, quinoa kinda rocks. Preparation is impossibly easy. It’s like slow couscous. 15 minutes of a slow simmer and it’s done. And there you have it, a blank good-for-you canvas that, supposedly is good for just about anything.

I gave it a trial run mixed in with some sautéed leeks, peas and langoustines, which, in all fairness, was such a killer combination, it’d be hard for any grain to fail. Still, quinoa held up, balancing the buttery leeks and shellfish with an earthiness that didn’t get in the way. They’ve got this fun little snap to them too. A texture that is, dare I say, cravable.

Sunday I was off to see Wilco at the Greek in Berkeley, and in an effort to contribute to the picnic and bring some whole grains into the picture, I sautéed some shallots with prosciutto and peas and incorporated the quinoa. Again, success. While in my distracted state I might have over-seasoned, co-workers dug into my leftovers Monday offering, “There is nothing not great about this.”

Nice to hear.

Getting home late on Tuesday, I was not in the mood to cook. It happens. I was a stone’s throw away from ordering thai, but, remembering my commitment to the granular cause, I fired up some quinoa instead. One of my favorite weeknight dishes is sautéed cauliflower with bread crumbs and a little pancetta over oreciette. Something about the redundant whiteness of the dish makes it seem perfectly indulgent, even though cauliflower delivers vitamins and fiber like any other veggie. So, ditching the pasta I subbed quinoa and it totally worked. Dare I say, it was better. I finally get this whole ‘heartiness’ thing everyone’s been touting.

Somewhere between Sunday’s picnic and Tuesday night dinner I realized, save for the porky bits in these dishes, I’m cooking Gary food. Brown food with veggies. Quinoa is working for me, and I managed to finish off the box in a week and change. Unlike, oh, wheatberries, I believe there will be a repeat purchase in my future. Onward, to Barley!

(there were going to be more pictures, really, but I've run into some technological bad luck lately. But I know you don't just come here for the picture, do you.)


durango3000 said...

my friend eric just moved to bolivia to work on a quinoa farm.

lavendersoda said...

interesting- you know if they're hiring?