Remember last summer, when I wrote about my fondness for farro, that ancient, nutty grain of Etruscan origins? Well, a few months ago I decided to spread that love to a whole grain from the opposite side of the globe: quinoa.
Quinoa originated in South America’s Andes Mountains and has been around for thousands of years. It was a sacred crop of the Incas, and for good reason: Quinoa is full of healthy stuff like protein, essential amino acids, and fiber.
After reading about this revered grain, I bought a small box and quickly whipped up Gourmet’s Lemon-Scented Quinoa. Light, nutty, and lemony, the bead-like quinoa was an intriguing new side dish at our dinner table. But something about the texture made me pause; it seemed too spongy, too airy. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it.
That was around Thanksgiving. Since then, the half-full box of quinoa stared out at me from the kitchen cupboard every time I reached inside for sea salt or honey for my tea. I felt stressed; how would I use it again? I thought of making a quinoa salad, perhaps with some arugula, tomatoes, and walnuts, and bringing it to work for lunch, but I never got around to it.
So this week I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and found a recipe for red peppers stuffed with quinoa and goat cheese. I mixed the quinoa with less of the creamy cheese than was recommended in the recipe, so the end result was lighter than I expected. And while the charred red peppers added vibrant flavor to the soft quinoa mixture, the dish would have benefited from some minced garlic. I threw in two scallions because I was out of garlic, but I’ve suggested some in the recipe below.
Just to warn you, you may want to serve something more substantial than a salad with your stuffed peppers. An hour after dinner Jim was still hungry, and made himself a cheese and crackers plate. I can’t say I’m a quinoa convert, but I am hoping I will like it more in time, maybe in something like the salad I mentioned earlier.
So, now that I’ve tried whole grains from both Italy and South America, where should I turn to next? I’m always looking for a new grain, so let me know!
Recipe for Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa and Goat Cheese (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
4 red peppers, halved and cored (The peppers we bought were too long and narrow to stand on their own, so I wound up cutting them lengthwise)
1 cup quinoa
4 ounces of soft goat cheese
2 scallions, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Rinse quinoa in a sieve under running water. Put the quinoa in a pot with at least 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil under high heat, then lower heat to a simmer. The quinoa will expand in size and will be ready after about 20 minutes. Drain.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl combine the quinoa with the goat cheese, scallions, garlic, chopped parsley, and some salt and pepper. Sprinkle the red peppers with salt, and then fill each pepper half with the mixture. Lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil and place the peppers in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Serves 4. Enjoy!