My family only recently discovered quinoa.
I’d like to think I am to blame, but I know it is only partially due to my fondness for whole grains.
According to my sister-in-law, quinoa is the new couscous. She went to a multitude of barbecues this summer and quinoa salads were always a star.
What’s not to like about the fluffy pebbles? I often use quinoa as a simple side to a stir fry or curry. Anywhere you’d typically think of rice, quinoa can substitute as a quick-cooking grain. Other times, I will use it as a base for a salad, as I find it works well with Mexican flavours.
While my family has been smitten with quinoa, they have had a hard time figuring out how to cook it properly. I typically cook it in twice the amount of salted water for 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed, and then plop the lid back on for an additional 5 minutes to let it steam.
For some reason, this doesn’t work for my mom. I will conceded that yes, her quinoa was more on the mushy/goopy side. I encouraged her to try to toast it first, to use less water or to steam it instead. For her last quinoa salad, with oranges, black-eyed peas and mint, she tried the steaming method with a fine mesh strainer inside a pot of boiling water. Now she had perfectly plump quinoa! It really is a simple way to get better texture from the quinoa and I should really try it more often. The benefit of boiling it is that I can infuse the quinoa with flavour if I use vegetable stock, herbs or other spices.
Need a delicious salad to inspire you to try quinoa? Try this Mexican-inspired lime-cilantro quinoa corn salad that I adapted from Ashley at Eat, Me, Delicious, who modified it from Rebar. It is a light, bright salad brimming with flavour.
While I don’t usually add corn to salads, the sweet corn was the perfect accent to this salad. It melds well with the the quinoa, that is speckled with a red pepper that I had grilled on the barbecue with some oil and garlic. Green onions add a nice sharpness and the chili flakes give this a bit of a zip. Cilantro is the herb of choice that pairs well with the fresh lime juice. I love the acid, but if you don’t, feel free to tame it by adding some oil. I also found that I really liked adding whole golden flax seeds to the salad. They were camouflaged amongst the quinoa, so you can’t really taste them, but they add extra nutrition – healthy omega fats and fiber. Completely optional, but if you are the adventurist, healthy type, go for it!