While I usually like to think of myself as someone on the cutting edge (usually) sometimes I’ve been known to miss the boat (sometimes). That is the case when it comes to quinoa. It seems like it went to ‘never heard of it’ to ‘sick and tired of it’ overnight. I finally got around to trying it in the form of a flavored box mix I had picked up somewhere that looked good but tasted awful. After that dreadful experience I put it on the back burner. I just went on with life continuing to scratch my head over the popularity of this quaint little grain. Then over the summer we had a couple of visitors and I was forced to give it another try. Our friends Eli and Miri were here from Israel and Miri wanted to make some quinoa for us. As you can imagine I was a little less than enthusiastic. Miri made it very simply by sautéing a mirepoix of aromatic vegetables, adding some water, a bouillon cube and the quinoa. Happily, instead of having to figure how I was going to choke it down, I was treated to a light, healthy and delicious dish. It was ready in no time and everyone, including myself, loved it. I was amazed at how easy it was to prepare and wondered why anyone would ever bother with a mix. In addition to tasting good it is also considered a superfood, high in protein and gluten-free. It is easy to digest and is a great source of dietary fiber and phosphorous as well as being high in magnesium and iron.
After our friends left we continued to make it just the way Miri taught us. However, we eventually got braver and began experimenting with the recipe a little more each time we made it. Quinoa is like a blank canvas that is begging to soak up any flavor and texture that you want to add to it. It was after a long day at work that I was in the mood to eat some Thai food but not in the mood to cook it. I was staring at the huge bag of quinoa in the pantry and suddenly became inspired. I continued scrambling in my pantry for some coconut milk, curry paste and peanut butter. The results were fantastic! We loved the combination of flavors and continued to make this “new quinoa recipe” over and over until we got it down perfectly. If you like Thai Satay you are going to love this dish. One component of this dish that elevates it is the sweet and sour cucumber. Although it sounds like a bit of work it is easy to make. The quinoa is still great without it, but I am begging you to try it with the sweet and sour cucumbers. You will be glad you did.
A note from Tim: most Thai red curry pastes are not vegetarian. Thai Kitchen brand is and it is easy to find in many major supermarkets. Use a vegetarian bouillon cube to keep this dish vegetarian.