As the days get colder and summer Fridays are a thing of the past, people may find themselves wanting to hunker down with a big bowl of mac and cheese and a warm glass of spiked apple cider. While there isn’t a substitute for the cider, there may be one for pasta. In this case, quinoa may take the cake (and no! it doesn’t have to be healthy.)
Quinoa is gluten-free and is often referred to as a grain, but it is actually a seed that fluffs and becomes tender when cooked with boiling liquid. It is also a complete source of protein and is full of fiber. More than that though, it’s incredibly useful when you’re trying to replace refined carbohydrates in your diet.
Quinoa must be boiled with a lot of liquid—often a ratio of 1:4 quinoa to liquid is needed to make sure that the seed becomes very soft and flavorful. You know that the quinoa is done when the little white “tails” come out of the seeds, and they are tender when bitten. Be aware that no matter how long you boil quinoa, it never turns totally soft, but always stays al dente.
Quinoa is a flavor sponge, so don’t just settle for boiling it in water. Boil it in stock, in milk, and even in beer, but whatever you do, don’t waste this opportunity to infuse it with all sorts of flavors. Quinoa can be eaten warm or cool, and it works in more ways than pasta does. For example, try:
- Italian quinoa. Mix it with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, diced garlic, and soft cubes of mozzarella.
- Asian quinoa. Boil it in water flavored with miso, then serve it hot with cilantro, shredded chicken, pickled ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of hot chile sauce
- Ratatouille quinoa. Mix it with dried herbs de Provence, mixed roasted vegetables, and a sprinkling of white balsamic vinegar.
- Breakfast quinoa. Boil in milk, and serve with maple syrup, roasted pecans, and raisins.