It's a lesson an attentive cook learns early: apply heat to food to draw out flavor, to reveal an inner character. We toast nuts to make them nuttier, we toast bread for its warmth and crispy edges. We roast tomatoes and squash to not only cook but sweeten. We brown butter to darken its character and put a little burn on bones to make stock. So what would happen if I toasted the quinoa first, would it make a difference?
Side by side, I cooked red quinoa in salted water in one pot and toasted regular quinoa to a toasty brown before adding water to cook in another. Did it make a difference? Taste-wise, not a smidgin.
Now my side-by-side comparison lacked scientific diligence. I should have used either red quinoa or white quinoa. I should have used the same cooking vessel. I should have used the same stove settings.
But taste-wise, I really did expect a difference. Here's what WAS different: the toasted quinoa required a lot more water to cook and then puffed up to about twice the volume as the untoasted quinoa. Was this a function of the wide-base of the cooking pot? the white quinoa? no addition of salt?
More tests to come -- but are there any experienced quinoa toasters out there?
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RECIPE for QUINOA SALAD with CHICKPEAS
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 8 cups
QUINOA & GREEN BEANS
2 - 3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup quinoa (I used 1/2 cup red quinoa and 1/2 cup regular)
1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into lengths
FRESH TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
1 perfect summer tomato
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
2 ounces roasted red pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 ounces feta cheese, broken into pieces (omit feta for a vegan salad)
Lime wedges (don't skip)
QUINOA Bring 2- 3 cups water and salt to a boil, add quinoa, cover and let simmer until quinoa doubles in volume and water is absorbed. Check occasionally, I had to add more water. Once it's cooked, fluff with a fork and let rest for a few minutes, otherwise it will get a little mushy.
GREEN BEANS Cook the green beans in well-salted water, drain and drop into a bowl of ice water to "shock" and stop the cooking. Drain immediately and let dry on a layer or two of paper towels to remove as much water as possible.
FRESH TOMATO VINAIGRETTE Combine all ingredients in a small food processor.
TO ASSEMBLE Transfer quinoa to a large bowl, stir in about half the vinaigrette. Stir in the green beans, red pepper, cucumber and chickpeas. Stir in the remaining vinaigrette, then the feta cheese. Refrigerate until cold.
TO SERVE Arrange on plates with lime wedges for squeezing on the side.
~ Sushi Salad ~
~ Sweet Potato Soup with Quinoa & Coconut Milk ~
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~ Quinoa & Black Bean Salad ~
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~ more quinoa recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
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