I like grains. I even like grains when I go to get them at the bulk bin, discover that my bag has a hole in it, and find half my quinoa sticking to my bunch of spinach while the other half lodges successfully in my shoe. Moral: there's a reason that bag is sitting there crumpled up. Not to say that you shouldn't use the bulk bins, since you definitely should--I got my quinoa for $1.99 a pound instead of $4 a 1 lb box--but there is a much larger scope for disaster there.
I emptied my bag into a new bag and went home to make salad.
Big crazy quinoa salad
Quinoa is cooked just about like rice, or any grain, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water. One main difference: you absolutely have to rinse your quinoa before you cook it. This is because it's coated with a natural chemical called saponin, which it evolved to stop birds and etc from eating it. You need to rinse it off or your quinoa will be bitter. Find the finest-grained strainer you can for this, or there will be quinoa all over your kitchen floor as well as in your shoes.
Basic technique: rinse quinoa. Bring salted water to a boil, add grain, cover, lower heat, and simmer for about twenty minutes. Take the pan off the heat, let it sit and steam for five more minutes, then uncover and fluff. The quinoa should have turned into hundreds of little semitranslucent bits with short curly strands mixed in. Taste it and make sure your salady ingredients will work with it.
This is where I failed. I was too excited, had too many delicious things around, and so added too many of them. It resulted in a muddy mix of flavor, where nothing was predominant and everything just tasted tolerably ok. It was definitely suffering from too much stuff syndrome.
I took some minced garlic and sautéed it in olive oil. Then I added chopped baby zucchini, red pepper, and green beans. I should have stopped at the red pepper and saved the beans for another incarnation. When things were cooked, I added them to the quinoa with a bunch of chopped parsley and some vinaigrette dressing, which was another dose of too much. It would have been far better to just use garlic, red pepper, and zucchini, with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper as dressing.
It definitely looks great, though, doesn't it?
With mud syndrome in mind, here are some vegetable combinations you could add:
- Green bean in olive oil with lemon zest
- Pea and shallot in olive oil and vinegar, maybe with grated parmesan
- Roasted red pepper and sweet onion in olive oil
- Finely chopped spinach in butter with some cream or nutmeg
- Just plain good vinaigrette with lots of chopped parsley
- Chopped dried apricot and almond with some cinnamon and a tasteless oil
Cook quinoa (or really any grain you want in a salad like this); cook vegetables; mix together and taste for spicing.
Or you can always, you know, have your quinoa plain with a little butter and salt, and have some chopped cucumbers in yogurt or something on the side. It's a complete protein, after all; you don't really need to add anything to it if you don't want to.