This blog is about practical cooking, but it’s also about a passion for food. The Practical Cook feels that passion for today’s ingrediente secreto: quinoa. Over 15 years ago, quinoa and I first met at a crunchy Carrboro co-op (locals recognize that this is a redundant phrase) called Weaver Street Market. This was before quinoa became the darling of chefs and healthy eaters everywhere, and well before I could actually pronounce it.
Because “The Weave” was within walking distance of my then-employer, lunch was often ordered there in a rush by simply pointing at one healthy option or another. My love for quinoa bloomed, and I attempted to order it by name one day, phonetically, uttering something between “quinine” and “Samoa.”
I won’t bore you with a litany of the health benefits and nutritional bang of quinoa, a quick search will deliver all of that. This is about taste—quinoa is like couscous in size and texture, but with a surprising depth of flavor. It is nutty and somewhat earthy, and completely addictive. Quinoa is a rarity for its plant-based protein punch. And it’s fun to say, no matter how you pronounce it.
Quinoa with Beets, Chickpeas, and Dill
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
~1 cup of chickpeas (rinsed and drained, use more or less, depending on your preference)
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced pickled beets (to be fair, the Practical Cook’s Mom keeps us awash in this family favorite; for those without access to PCM‘s mad canning skills, they are commercially available, or plain cooked beets will work fine)
1 tsp dill (I used dried, and this is an estimate, adjust to your taste)
salt and pepper
1. Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan.
2. Bring quinoa to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat.
3. Once boiling, lower the heat (a bit less than medium) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
4. Take the pan off the heat, allow to sit for a few minutes, then fluff a bit with a spoon.
5. Fold in remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.
Here’s the final plate.
We served it alongside Salmon with a Creamy Lemon Dill sauce and broiled asparagus. The quinoa was a huge hit with our eldest, who is gun-shy about some textures (including couscous) and an aspiring almost six-year-old foodie. This is clearly a building block recipe that will work well with whatever you have at hand, including leftover grilled veggies; sauteed carrots and peas; goat cheese, walnuts, and dried fruit (like cranberries).
Next up, a warm weather punt: How to Dine Al Fresco, or Mama Tapas.
Have you tried quinoa? Let’s hear your ideas and flavor combinations on the blog, Twitter (practicalcook), or email (for the shy: practicalcook at gmail dot com).