Sometimes, lessons need to be relearned.
This lesson is entitled: Read the recipe first! But the lesson has a subtitle, too: Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
We had a three-pound bag of quinoa to cook. The dish would be a variation on a wonderful quinoa salad from Rebecca Katz. The event was a healthy cooking presentation and lunch for one of UCSF’s Cancer Resource Center’s retreat days for cancer patients.
Instead of following the directions in the recipe for cooking the quinoa, we followed, sort of, the package directions. These called for one part grain and two parts water. We might have added even more water than that. The recipe, however, suggested one part grain and about one and one-quarter parts water. This latter measurement results in lovely, separate, fluffy quinoa, just right for a salad.
Ours was mush. For the salad we needed to start over. (And we went on to great success with the recipe.) But neither of us were happy about throwing out food. My brilliant friend, F, looked at the glop and said: “Quinoa Risotto.” Thus was born Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto, another of what I call “freezer convenience foods”: frozen overcooked quinoa, frozen pumpkin puree (do you ever use all the cooked pumpkin in one dish?), frozen Romano beans (the one plant that produced so abundantly I advertised the extras on the local garden talk list), fried sage, toasted pumpkin seeds, chili flakes, plus a little broth to thin the mixture. I’ve already made it three times, once for the night before Thanksgiving. It’s an easy dish for any night throughout the winter squash season. Even G, who is not fond of pumpkin, likes the dish.
You can make the dish on purpose, or simply cook some quinoa and freeze it to make your own convenience-food dinners. Two to three-cup portions should serve four. And once you have it on hand, you can go in any direction depending on what you have on hand. Because we were “following” Rebecca’s recipe, we had dded ground spices (cumin and coriander) to our quinoa. These taste great with winter squashes but if they are your least favorite spices, leave them out and go with herbs such as thyme.
F made Mushroom Quinoa Risotto by sautéing sliced mushrooms in butter with some minced garlic in a deep, wide pot. She added sherry and reduced it to a glaze. Then she mixed in the quinoa mush, a little half-and-half, and freshly grated Parmesan. “Dee-licious!” she wrote when describing her concoction. I’ve made a version that loosened the quinoa with tomato sauce; added some diced, home-dried tomatoes, and simmered the combination with Parmesan cheese rinds.
Although I haven’t tried it yet, next on my list is Quinoa Pho: with keffir lime leaves, coconut milk, chicken broth, chili, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, and diced, cooked chicken or turkey.