Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quinoa Craziness

This morning, the husband man sent me a recipe, Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, from the New York Times. Ahhh, he knows me so well! I can't wait to give this recipe a go. I have a bit of a fetish for whole grain salads. And why not nurture this excitement over something healthy?

My mom, who lives with diabetes, has been wanting to delve into the world of whole grains more. Their carbs, which the body metabolizes more slowly than the simple carbs in processed grains, can actually help stabilize blood sugar rather than causing spikes. Last time I was home in Idaho we went on a little adventure to find quinoa for her to use at home. At last we met success when we found bulk quinoa at Winco, a discount grocer that's as large as the entire city block in which my local market is nestled. Idaho may not have delis with vast selections of pre-made whole grain salads (or a selection of any salads not glopped with mayo, for that matter), but it sure does have the real estate.

After this trip, I sent my mom this little encouraging email about a recent quinoa success story. Looking back, I love this experiment because it demonstrates how you can make something delicious and fresh using what you have on hand. You don't have to make an extra trip to the market with a shopping list as long as your arm just so you can copy an interesting recipe EXACTLY. Take what you want from an existing recipe and twist it to your liking, and to the contents of your fridge. Here it is, Quinoa, Mango, & Black Bean Salad (which I summarily turned into Quinoa, Mango, & Kidney Bean Salad - I tend to do that).


I don't know if you've tried cooking the quinoa we bought you yet or not, but I wanted to share this recipe I just made. I chose it for 3 reasons:

1. It happened to mostly fit what I had in the kitchen & already had in mind to make.

2. I like the quinoa cooking tips. I know from experience how bitter quinoa can be if you don't rinse, yet most recipes seem to skip this step. Toasting the quinoa until crackly & fragrant (like popcorn!) was new to me, & I liked the results.

3. I like that the dressing is juice-based instead of oil-based.

Of course, I made a couple of adjustments. I wouldn't be me if I didn't! To bump up the zip, I added a couple pinches of dry mustard and a few drops of chili oil to the dressing. To use what I had in the house, I substituted cucumber (and a little onion powder) for the scallions & red pepper, plus I used kidney beans instead of black beans. I'm positive it's great the original way, I was just trying to use what I had on hand. 

My version:

 Anywho, Mom - I thought you might find this helpful for your first foray into cooking with quinoa


P.S. I used black quinoa because, last time I was at Whole Foods, they were out of white & red in the bulk department. So I tried black. It tastes exactly the same.

Mmmmmm. All this talk of summer salads is making me crave my Grandma's tabbouleh. I just can't get enough of these whole grain, summery delights. How about you? What summer salads do you love that I've just gotta try?

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