An important thing to note about quinoa: it needs to be rinsed extremely well under running water before cooking it. The grain is covered in a soapy/bitter-tasting substance called a "saponin". It tastes HORRIBLE. I once forgot the rinsing step and the quinoa was inedible. I just rinse mine in a fine-meshed colander under a steady spray of water for about a minute, and that does the trick.
Quinoa is very flexible; one of my favorite ways to eat it is just with a little butter and parmesan, with fried egg on top. You can also eat it sweet, almost like oatmeal, with a little brown sugar and milk. You can substitute cooked quinoa for cous cous for a punch of nutrition and flavor.
I normally use this flavor combo for pasta, and it is amazing. I wanted, however, to make the dish a little more nutritious so I decided to substitute cooked quinoa for the cooked pasta... and was thrilled with the results. This could suffice as a main dish for a veg-head (especially if you tossed in some steamed or roasted vegetables), but would be equally at home alongside a roasted chicken or piece of fish.
*ingredient note: please use real parmesan. A block of imported parmesano reggiano is best (should have "parmesano reggiano" printed in dots on the rind), but you can use the american "parmesan" as long as it's not the sawdust-in-a-green can stuff. Asiago also is a good stand-in cheese.
- 1 cup of quinoa (dry), rinsed and cooked according to package directions (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, usually)
- 2 TBS butter
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese*, plus a little extra for garnish
Cook quinoa. I actually do this in a steamer, but on the stovetop is fine. Just read the package. It should take about half an hour. You can do that step way ahead if you need/want to. In a saucepan, heat butter and pine nuts over medium heat until the butter starts to foam and brown a little. You need to stir/toss the nuts often so they don't burn on one side. As the butter browns, the pine nuts will toast nicely in the sauce. Be really careful not to let the butter burn, or it will ruin the entire dish. Just past the foamy stage is about right -- you will notice a toffee/nutty scent to the butter as it starts to turn a golden brown color. Remove from heat. Toss in the cooked quinoa, a pinch of salt, and the grated parmesan. Stir to mix. Season with more salt if needed. Sprinkle a little extra grated parmesan on top.This will make 2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings. Can easily be doubled.