Where was quinoa 10 years ago? Not on most people’s radar, that’s for sure. I taught a recipe with quinoa in a cooking class 8 years ago and everyone was skeptical. They were sold on it’s health benefits (high in protein, low in fat, full of antioxidants), but not the flavor. Nutty? Soapy?
“I can’t get into quinoa. I’ve tried. We even cooked it with chicken stock. Not into it,” I remember someone saying. We’ve come a long way with quinoa. When you see it sold in Costco and Target, you know it has gone mainstream. I hope many of you have embraced quinoa and figured out ways to enjoy it. I always used to tell people who are new to quinoa to take their favorite orzo or couscous recipes and swap quinoa. This would be a major nutritional upgrade and I think a more interesting flavor.
But I’m the first to admit I don’t love plain quinoa eaten out of a bowl with no seasonings, no add-ins. Rice, yes. But quinoa has a unique flavor that needs a little support. The texture is so fantastic though. Bouncy, springy, light! I love it. I make a big batch every other week and stir-fry it a la Italian Fried Rice, or stir in some almond milk and fruit for a sweet breakfast, sprinkle it into pancake batter and add it to salads for a bouncy boost of protein.
I try to teach a great quinoa recipe at least two or three times each year. This is one I shared in my classes many years ago and it’s one of the simpler quinoa recipes I’ve taught. It’s always nice to have those back-pocket recipes that are healthy, tasty and don’t use too many ingredients or that you can adapt easily.
I could eat this quinoa with toasted coconut and grilled scallions on its own for lunch or with a piece of roasted salmon or chicken on top. It is perfection with the Thai Steak Salad, which I have also adapted with salmon and chicken. Mr. Picky, who definitely prefers pasta over quinoa, will eat this with extra toasted coconut and a couple of crushed tortilla chips. Whatever it takes is my motto! For those of you with more sophisticated palates, check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe for some additional suggestions. I highly recommend something spicy!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed*
- 1 ¾ cups water
- pinch of sea salt plus ¾ teaspoon
- 1 bunch scallions
- 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling onions
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (if you love lime, add some zest, too!)
- 3 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- optional: half a jalapeño, seeded and grilled with the green onions, finely chopped
- Preheat a grill over medium heat.
- Bring quinoa, water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn heat off and allow to sit, covered for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Drizzle some oil on the green onions coating them lightly. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill for a minute on each side or until lightly charred and tender. Coarsely chop and set aside.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the coconut flakes, stirring constantly, until golden. They will crisp up off the heat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, cilantro and salt. Add to cooked quinoa with green onions and toasted coconut. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add an extra squeeze of lime, if desired.
This is a basic recipe to which I sometimes add avocado or grilled chopped jalapeño or mango. Sometimes I add mint along with the cilantro if I have it.