I really like food. I like cooking it, watching shows about it, reading magazines about it, collecting books about it, and of course eating it. I like watching cooking shows that are cooking foods I know I don't like and will never eat just so I can learn the techniques they use and pick up some great presentation ideas. I love making supper, and wish I had more time to make elaborate meals. I love having people over to eat with us: a full table is a wonderful sight. And so, I figure, it is time for Fuel by Barbara to get on to fuel for the body, on top of fuel for thought. So let's go! Foodie Friday...a recipe (or two) every Friday. Got it? Sound good? Alrighty then.
Just this week I had cooked the most delicious stuffed peppers (a family favourite) but instead of using rice, I used quinoa. Quinoa (do you know how to pronounce that? Not meaning to insult anyone's intelligence here. It is a bit weird...Keen-Wah) is a fantastic grain. It is super easy to cook, highly versatile, and incredibly healthy. Did you know that it is considered a "complete protein" which is a good thing for vegetarians, and it is gluten-free? And it is also high in iron, which is good for all of us tired-out types! Quinoa is *so* healthy and so sustainable that they are considering using it as a crop for NASA's long-term manned space projects. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
But how do you use it? Well, let me give you two quick and easy recipes, that we love, for quinoa.
First, let me apologize: I cook by the seat of my pants a fair bit. Lots of "a dash of this, a pinch of that, and grab whatever is in the fridge". I'll try hard to be fairly exact with some measurements that really matter, but otherwise you may need to be flexible and try a little experimenting on your own. Besides, if I tell you the quantities I make for my crew, you'll need to invite over your kids' class for supper to eat up the leftovers!
The basic cooking method for Quinoa is very simple. Like rice, take 2 cups water (or broth) for every cup of grain. Bring the water to a boil, add the quinoa, turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook until the grains are soft (20-30 minutes). Quinoa goes kind of translucent when it is cooked and has a little ring around the outside of the swelled grain. Some people say you need to rinse quinoa in water before you cook it to wash off any bitter starch. I'm far too lazy for that. I've never done it, and really never had a problem. Try it both ways and see what works best for you.
Best-Ever Greek Salad
(this makes a big, vegetarian entree salad. Good for potlucks too.)
2-3 cups cooked quinoa (more or less depending on number of servings desired) (and, I should say, you have time to prepare all the rest of this salad while the quinoa cooks, which makes this a super fast supper)
Head of Romaine Lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (or fresh spinach, if you prefer)
2-3 sweet peppers (any colour, but I like to have a green, red, and yellow when possible)
2 cups or so Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (or several diced, fresh, plum tomatoes)
1-2 English cucumbers, sliced
1-2 jars black olives (whole, pitted, sliced...whatever you prefer)
Red Onion, sliced thin (to taste)
Feta cheese, crumbled (to taste...at least 1 cup? Omit if you want a vegan meal.)
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced (or to taste. I find it really mellows more than you think it will)
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil
pinch of dill
salt and pepper to taste (you may not want any salt because of the olives and feta being fairly salty.)
(and you may need to increase or decrease the amount of dressing depending on size of salad you make)
Place all vegetables and feta in a large bowl. Place the warm quinoa on top. Thoroughly whisk all dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over all and toss slightly. Eat while it is still warm. We'll have this as a meal all on its own sometimes, or sometimes we'll eat it as a side salad. Yum! My kids LOVE this salad.
Vegetarian Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Now this is really not a helpful recipe at all...
Do you have a stuffed pepper recipe you love? Take out the rice, or take out the meat, and use Quinoa instead. Simple! Ours looked like this:
Guacamole spices (ie. from Epicure, or a similar supermarket blend)
salt and pepper to taste
Toss all that together.
Cut off the top and remove seeds from enough peppers for at least one per person. (Alternately, cut peppers in half from top to bottom, removing seeds and stems, and serve half per person as a side dish).
Fill each pepper with the stuffing mixture.
Sprinkle heavily with grated cheese (I like extra-old cheddar).
Place in a baking dish large enough to snuggly hold them all standing upright. Pour 1/2 inch of water (or so) into the bottom of the pan. (this helps steam cook the peppers). Bake in a 350-375F oven until the cheese is melty and bubbly, the stuffing is hot through, and the peppers are softening and/or browning, approx. 30 minutes. I serve these as an entree with a salad, and/or steamed vegetables.
Try it out, and let me know what you think? I'd love to hear how much you enjoy quinoa. How do you cook it? Do you have a recipe to share?