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Farro, too, is apparently yesterday's fodder.

I find these declarations both silly and annoying. The message is that ingredients are merely passing trends and that our discovery of them is a fleeting thing, like hairstyles, hemlines or facial hair.

This may be true in certain restaurants. If you pay attention, you'll notice that ingredients pass like waves through restaurants that are not tied to a culinary tradition. A few years ago, for example, farro was everywhere, to the degree that acclaimed writer Calvin Trillin declared how sick he was of it after once having praised it.

I think differently, most of the time. Over the years, as unfamiliar foods have become available locally, my pantry and my cooking repertoire have expanded. When I was growing up, I'd never heard of polenta, but it's become a longtime staple, since I first ate it in the 1970s. The same is true with farro, bulgur wheat, couscous, black rice, sorrel, pomelos, serranos, quail and dozens of other foods that were, at one time, not on my radar.

I confess that certain foods became so trendy for a time that I have likely eaten my lifetime fill. Sun-dried tomatoes are overdone, as is pesto, largely, I believe, because they became ubiquitous instead of seasonal. Classic pesto is a summer joy; sun-dried tomatoes are a traditional way of preserving tomatoes for winter. It was their year-round usage that made me grow tired of them. But I digress.

Here quinoa is being declared yesterday's darling when I've not fully befriended it yet. It's a food that is prepared poorly so often that I tend to ignore it. Yet it is delicious when cooked correctly, so that it is neither watery nor undercooked, two of the most frequent problems I have encountered.

One other problem can put a final nail in quinoa's coffin, unless you know how to fix it.

Quinoa has a bitter coating, a quality that allows it to thrive in the wild, as birds and other critters are put off by the taste. If quinoa is cooked without being well-rinsed, the bitterness remains and is quite unpleasant. If you cook quinoa, be sure to rinse it prior, in several water baths. (Save the water and use it to water indoor or outdoor plants.)

Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and has grown in South America for thousands of years. It is related to Swiss chard and spinach; if you find quinoa greens, don't discard them, as they are both nutritious and delicious.

Quinoa contains about 20 percent high-quality protein, making it an excellent staple for vegans and vegetarians. It also has substantial amounts of iron, potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, niacin, zinc, copper, manganese and folacin.

Famed horticulturist Luther Burbank believed that quinoa would become popular in his lifetime as a new and preferred breakfast food, the "forgotten cereal of the ancient Aztecs," he put it. It didn't happen and it still struggles to find a place in the American pantry.

I first came across a dish similar to this but called "Scarlet Quinoa" that called, obviously, for a red beet, which will dye anything it touches. That quinoa is pretty enough, but I prefer this one for several reasons. I like the layer of flavor added by the sauteed shallots and garlic and prefer the milder taste of golden beets. This is a good side dish and can also serve as a building block for salads and other dishes. For suggestions, consult the variations that follow the main recipe.

<strong>Golden Quinoa</strong>

Makes 4 servings

<em>2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil</em>

<em> 1 shallot, minced</em>

<em> 2 garlic cloves</em>

<em> 2 small golden beets, trimmed, peeled and minced</em>

<em> -#8212; Kosher salt</em>

<em> 1 1/3 cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly</em>

<em> 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, hot</em>

<em> -#8212; Zest of 1 lemon</em>

<em> 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to taste</em>

<em> -#8212; Black pepper in a mill</em>

<em> 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (Italian parsley, chives, thyme, cilantro)</em>

Put the olive oil into a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the shallot and saute until it softens, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 2 minutes more and stir in the beets.

Season with salt.

Add the quinoa and stock, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently, about 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the lemon zest and juice, fluff with a fork, taste and correct for salt and acid. Season with black pepper, add the herbs and fluff again.

Transfer to a bowl and serve hot or at room temperature.

<em><strong> Variations:</strong></em>

Top the cooked quinoa with wedges of roasted and peeled beets; a mix of varieties is best. Garnish with lemon wedges and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

If you prefer a bit of sweetness with your beets, as many people do, use orange zest and juice in place of lemon. Top the cooked quinoa with roasted beets that have been tossed with more orange zest and juice and seasoned with salt and black pepper.

Add a minced serrano to the shallots, along with the beets. Use lime zest and lime juice instead of lemon and use all cilantro instead of a mix of herbs. Serve as a side dish or top with sauteed chorizo and serve as a light main course, with hot corn tortillas and a favorite salsa alongside.

Let the quinoa cool to room temperature. Add about 3 ounces crumbled feta cheese, a peeled, seeded and diced cucumber and, if available, several leaves of sorrel, cut into very thin ribbons. Taste, correct for salt and acid and serve as a hearty salad.

Spread the quinoa over a wide, shallow serving bowl and top with a whole roasted chicken, cut into pieces.

Omit the golden beets and, if you have it, use mushroom stock. Cut a medium portobello mushroom into very small dice, add it to the shallots and garlic and saute until limp. Cook as directed in the main recipe. While the quinoa cooks, saute a pound or so of good mushrooms in butter and white wine. Season with salt and pepper and serve atop the hot quinoa.

Top the cooked quinoa with your favorite seasonal vegetables. In January and February, use blanched cauliflower and broccoli, roasted carrots and parsnips or a mix of braised greens. As spring onions and garlic come into season, this quinoa makes an excellent bed for them, roasted or grilled. It is also an excellent bed for roasted asparagus topped with a light lemon vinaigrette and sieved egg.

Add cooked chicken or pork, torn or cut into small pieces, to the cooked quinoa. Drizzle with more lemon juice and more olive oil just before serving.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 -amp; 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>

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