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.
- 1 carrot, diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 rib of celery, diced
- 1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 rounded teaspoon red curry paste*
- 2 rounded tablespoons chunky peanut butter
- 1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable) dissolved in 1 ¼ cups water
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ cup loosely packed Thai Basil, chopped (chiffonade)
- 1 cup of dry quinoa
- Sriracha Sauce for garnish (optional)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 cup of cucumber, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
- Begin by preparing the cucumber relish. Cut the cucumber and red onion and place in a small bowl. Combine the vinegar, sugar and hot water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over the cucumber and red onion and set aside. For the quinoa begin by cutting the carrot, pepper, celery and onion into a ¼ inch dice and sauté in 1-2 tablespoons oil until soft and beginning to brown. Add the chopped garlic and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes. Push the vegetables over to one side of the pan and add the curry paste. Fry the paste for a minute or so being careful not to burn it. Stir in the peanut butter and blend with the other ingredients in the pan. Add the water and bouillon, coconut milk and lime juice and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, give it a stir, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Do not lift the lid until at least 15 minutes or so to check on it. After that it is ok to stir if necessary to prevent sticking or scorching the bottom. After 20 minutes taste for doneness. Plate and serve with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers.
- *Most Thai red curry pastes are not vegetarian. Thai Kitchen brand is and it is easy to find in many major supermarkets.
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.