Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to look good in the kitchen - Quinoa

Due to popular demand* here's finally a great recipe for impressive looking but really easy to make meals!

Man, I love quinoa. I know it sounds totally hippie and all, but it's seriously such an awesome ingredient. I know, I know, I'm really late on the quinoa bandwagon (foodie-fail), but better late than never, right?

So, let me tell you first why it is so awesome. Yeah sure, it's healthy, sustainable, supports the small farmers in Bolivia... All super-great things, but you can find all that stuff elsewhere, written by people who know what they are talking about. What I know as the 'queen of laziness in the kitchen', is that you need to do the work once and you can get several different meals out of this one. Let's say at least a dinner and a couple of lunches. Minimum. Also, I like making things that SEEM impressive and like it took me forever to make. But it didn't. HA! I should totally write a cookbook. It would be called "Let's make impressive looking food that requires hardly any effort**". (Publishers!!! You can find my contact info on the sidebar!)

Anyhow, quinoa. You've heard about it surely, and figure it's going to be difficult to make and where the hell am I even going to find it?! Answers: it's not difficult at all and you can find it practically any grocery store. (Well, here in Montreal at least. Go to a health food store if you can't find it. They'll have it for sure)

I like to make a huge pot of it and then throw in different things to make separate interesting meals out of basically the same thing. It's like using a base and then masking it with a whole bunch of other stuff. Like the LBD of cooking.

[I did not get off topic at all there by the way]

To make quinoa you'll need:

Quinoa (Duh! And yeah, I know, it looks like seeds)
Liquid to cook it in. I use veggie broth, but any broth or even water will be just fine
Perhaps a little salt or a bullion cube if you're using water

So, this is one of those really easy recipes.

1 unit of dry quinoa needs 2 units of liquid and makes 3 units of cooked quinoa

1 dry Q + 2 liquid = 3 ready Q  (<-- math for the engineers reading this)

I used cups for the measurements as I am in North America after all, but use the same formula whatever your unit of measure is. It could be an actual mug, you know. Just use the same one for both measurements.
First, put the liquid of choice in a large pot (remember, quinoa swells quite a bit) and put the broth/water to boil. Like said, you can use any kind of a broth or water. If you use water, drop in a bullion cube or a dash of salt.

While the liquid heats up, rinse your quinoa. I've read from various places it can be bitter tasting if you don't. Now, I've never tasted bitter quinoa, so I don't know, but better safe than sorry. If you have a mesh strainer, you're already ahead of me. I have one but the holes are too big. (You might want to check before you pour the quinoa in, otherwise you'll get a drain full of quinoa. Those little buggers are tiny.) If you don't have a strainer, just use a tupperware container. Dump in quinoa, add water and swirl around for a bit. Drain water and repeat.

Once the liquid is boiling add in the quinoa and turn the heat to low. Let boil for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is up, check how much liquid is left. There should be a little bit, but the grain should not be floating. if it looks completely dry, add a little water. Then set aside for 5-10 minutes.

The quinoa is ready once the grains seem plump and all the liquid has been absorbed. I read somewhere you can actually make quinoa in a rice cooker as well. I haven't tried this, but the 1-to-2 ratio should work here too. Let the quinoa cool before mixing in the ingredients if you're making a salad.

So, now you have a whole lot of quinoa. What now? I always make a little dressing to mix in at this point. I'm just making sure it won't go clumpy, not sure if it's necessary, but I like it this way. The basic dressing is

2 parts lime juice
2 parts balsamic vinegar
1 part olive oil
dash of salt

Obviously, you can use any dressing you'd like, just mix it in the cooked quinoa. Super-tip: ready salad dressing, like Italian dressing, cuts down at least 5 minutes! I'd be careful with a creamy one, pick a vinegar/oil based one to make sure it stays good.

Super-pro tip: Keep the quinoa at this stage in the fridge until you want to eat it. You can make several meals with this base and just change the ingredients! It's really easy to make into lunch by adding a little extra dressing and a few varied ingredients. That way it'll taste different for the different meals. You could even divide it into smaller containers for extra fast lunch.
Then, the fun part. Add a bunch of tasty ingredients. My favourite combo is cherry tomatoes, avocado, bocconccini (mini mozzarella) and cilantro. I've also tried tomato-fresh spinach-feta cheese. Basically you could put in anything you'd put in a salad. Next one I'm thinking of is pear and feta cheese.

Keep in mind that these are just the salad-y ideas. There's a whole lot of different things you can use quinoa for, including warm dishes. I'm pretty sure it would taste awesome with curries and stews.

This recipe was put together by trial and error and by combining instructions from all over the interwebs, for example theKitchn and FamilyFreshCooking. Once you have the basic idea down, the possibilities are endless.

What would you add to quinoa? I'd love to try your ideas, so please leave a comment!

*popular demand = my sister
** working title


  1. Haha, based on the title I thought this was going to be shoe-tips.

    1. Yeah... Now that I think about it, it does kinda sound like it :D

  2. Ohman those look so gooood! Thankies for writing the recipies! Will have to try sooooon~


    1. You should try it out. It's really, really good and easy to make. Tell me how it turned out once you do try it.

  3. I'm making this for lunch today, but with millet rather than quinoa, since I am out of quinoa. Will let you know how it goes.

    1. Awesome! I really want to hear how it turned out!

    2. Success! We had leftover cilantro vinaigrette from yesterday, and we had it with avocado and roasted broccoli. Nice and easy lunch, also with millet. If you thought quinoa was hippie-food, millet must be even more so...