Quinoa (pronounced keen-wuh) is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. It’s actually a seed not a grain, but it’s cooked like a grain. The rich nutty taste is perfect in a pilaf, but it’s just as good stirred into any salad. Because of its flavour, ease of cooking and high nutritional value, quinoa is one of the most common foods on my table.
Yield: Serves 4
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth or water
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until they just begin to turn golden brown.
Add the quinoa and continue cooking for a few minutes longer, stirring constantly, until the quinoa is golden brown and toasted, about 5 minutes. This will add lots of aromatic flavour to the dish.
Pour in the chicken broth or water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa has unfurled and is tender, about 15 minutes.
Let stand for 5 minutes or so before serving.
Quinoa seeds grow with a naturally bitter coating that is easily rinsed off. In fact, most of it has been washed off before it gets to you anyway, but it’s always a good idea to thoroughly rinse it once again. Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and run lots of cold water over it.
Because of its aromatic nutty flavour, quinoa is especially good served with other nuts. We often sprinkle toasted almonds on top of this dish.
This is one of my favourite variations on a classic rice pilaf. It's spiced up with vibrant curry, colourful saffron, and succulent sweet potatoes which, ounce for ounce, are one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables readily available.
For a meal befitting of the lords and ladies in your life, pack this fragrant rice into small bowls and ramekins, then inverse onto the serving plates. Top with a sprig or two cilantro before surrounding the rice with some sautéed shrimp or steamed mussels.
Couscous is a grain-like form of pasta made from semolina flour, the same flour used to make pasta. It’s very common throughout the Mediterranean and North Africa. In Morocco it’s often served with dried fruits and nuts and lots of mysterious aromatic spiciness.