Monday, August 27, 2012

What Do I Do with Quinoa?

You read an article in MSNBC, called Five Foods to Maximize Your Muscle Power. It recommends eating quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quin-what? Or maybe you actually have a package of quinoa lurking in your cupboard and you haven't gotten around to fixing it because you think, what is it and will it even taste good? Or maybe, like me, you have it, you make it very occasionally and you think, ho hum--just another grain.

Well the truth is, quinoa is worth taking another look at. It's one of the few grains that is high in protein. One of the few grains that is rich in all the amino acids needed to build muscle. If you are a vegetarian, quinoa should become a grain in your dietary rotation (like rice, oatmeal, wheat).

But wherever you are in the quinoa awareness continuum, do you have any great ideas about what to do with the stuff? Well, here are a few. If you know of more, please let me know and I will add them.

  • Add in when making bread--it's barely noticeable but adds protein and moisture
  • Cooked, as a cereal, with fruit, yoghurt (as you would eat oatmeal)
  • As the basis for pilaf, pullao, perlo--however you wish to spell it (as you would rice, although quinoa does not fry well)
  • Toss into soup, it adds a richer texture, but hardly any flavor change
  • Add to salad (as a substitute for bulgher in tabouleh, for instance, or like pasta, otherwise)
  • Mixed in with a casserole for extra protein (in pot pies, for instance)

The way my family likes it best is as a pilaf and thrown into soups. But do experiment.

Also, if you like quinoa, there are a few basic things to know.

  • Don't buy in puny little packages at exorbitant prices from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or other well-meaning health-food stores. Quinoa should be cheap and plentiful if you know where to look. I recommend buying it in one- or five-pound packages from (which is a great source, by the way, for lots of spices, dried fruit, and beans for sprouting, too).
  • Rinse before using. But, because the grains of quinoa are so small, you have to use a fine mesh strainer to keep from losing your grains. Rinsing gets rid of risidual bitterness.
  • Cook in a two-to-one proportion, with two parts water to one part quinoa
  • Quinoa works just like rice in a rice cooker
  • You can cook a batch of plain quinoa and freeze it for use a bit at a time for breakfasts.

Quinoa Pilaf a la WhatEye8

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 large carrot, cubed
1 cup peas
Salt to taste

Add all ingredients except for the peas to a pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes. Add the peas, and then turn off the stove and let the pot sit, covered, for fifteen minutes. Fluff before serving.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pan-World Cuisine: or, The Garden Made Me Cook It

Not sure what the kind of cooking I do is called--Pan-World Cuisine? Lots of Asian and Indian, but really, all rolled around what's growing in the garden now. The garden TELLS me what to cook. Lately, that's a lot of squash!

Earlier this week, I catered a reception for the Architecture Foundation of Santa Barbara. Small and somewhat swank--with a live band (playing quietly--many neighbors), and a vineyard sponsoring. Here's what I made:

  • Indonesian satay chicken skewers with satay dipping sauce
  • Salmon dip with organic carrots and patty-pan squash
  • Italian deli ham-wrapped melon sticks
  • Cheese bread twists
  • Fruit kabobs
  • Watermelon basket loaded with red grapes and decorated with flowers and lemon slices
  • Dark chocolate coconut-rum-laced truffles rolled in unsweetened coconut
  • Shrimp cocktail platters--one with a homemade soy-sesame dip and one with a tomato-based wasabi and smoked paprika dip

I stayed for the first part of the event--just to make sure everyone liked the food. My hubby closed the party down, though, and reported every spare morsel was devoured--all but the watermelon basket itself (contents were eaten). Success! Too bad it was a donation, but I'm not at the pro level.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bruschetta: Summer Garden on Toast—a Kid-friendly Treat

If you are a frequenter of Italian restaurants, chances are that at some time or another, you've eaten this simple and simply fantastic appetizer. Tomato salsa spooned onto crostini, fondly known as bruschetta. (Be sure to pronounce it brew-SKEH-tah--with a K sound. I often hear servers mistakenly say, brew-SHET-ah.) But if you have a summer garden, bruschetta has got to be one of the simplest ways to get your family to eat their veggies.

Bruschetta must have originated during that short time during the summer when a garden yields up its most wonderful fruit, tomatoes. At about that time, oregano and basil are also jamming. So the first bruschetta maker must have tossed these three magical parts together and thrown it on toast. What could be simpler and yet more of a crowd-pleaser, with the taste of sunshine and languid summer days in every bite?

Bruschetta is also simple for kids to make and to enjoy eating. My six-year-old helped by brushing olive oil on the bread and by chopping tomatoes with a butter knife. So call the youngsters in and let them help out in the kitchen.

Garden Bruschetta

Crostini First
Slice a good loaf of Italian bread into thin (1/2 inch) slices, and then further cut each slice in half, if needed, to make palm-sized or smaller pieces. Brush with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Toast at 350º F for 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted.

Tomatoes Second

Chop fresh, vine-ripened heirloom, cherry, and other tomatoes to make three cups of salsa. Gather basil and oregano leaves from the garden. Chop into small pieces and add to the tomatoes, along with one clove of crushed garlic. Lastly, season with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. It the salsa is too liquidy, feel free to drain it a bit--too much liquid makes the crostini soggy.

Build It Yourself
Put the salsa in one bowl with a slotted spoon (which helps drain it), and the crostini in another. Guests then spoon their own salsa onto pieces of crostini.