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How To Make The Best Quinoa In Town

by Elana Horwich

October 9, 2013 | 9:00 am

The Basics of Quinoa

I make the best quinoa in town, and considering I live in the capital of quinoa, Los Angeles, this is quite an accomplishment

My tricks are:

  1. Make your life easy and buy a rice cooker. (buy here)
  2. Dress the quinoa while it is hot and serve it while it is still warm.
  3. First create the flavor base for the quinoa, then add garnishes. 
  4. Be generous with olive oil. (That is the trick for most food.)

How to cook the quinoa:

Measure your quinoa in a mug, glass or measuring cup. You will need twice the amount of water so fill up whatever container you used for the dry quinoa twice. Put it all in your rice cooker, turn it on and forgettaaboutit! Or follow stovetop instructions. 

Once the quinoa is done, put it in a mixing bowl and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Then create the flavor base.

Elana’s Flavor Base:

These measurements are guidelines! The only way to be sure it’s perfect is to taste and adjust. 

For 1 cup uncooked quinoa:

  • generous ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • ½ -1 teaspoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari*
  • 4 sprays or ½ teaspoon Braggs Amino Acids* (if you don’t have, add another ¼ teaspoon soy sauce or tamari)
  • ½-1 teaspoon coconut aminos* (if you don’t have, add another ¼ teaspoon soy sauce or tamari and ¼-½ teaspoon salt.)
  • juice and zest of one lemon

*shop for these items here

First add the olive oil and salt and stir to coat grains. Next add the soy sauce or tamari, Braggs and Coconut Aminos. 

Taste and Adjust: 

  • Like the lemon but want more? Add more! 
  • Want a little more sweet/salty flavor? Add more soy sauce, Braggs and/or Coconut Aminos.
  • Too salty? Add more lemon and olive oil. 
  • Not enough flavor? Add more salt. 

The Art of Garnishing Quinoa

Here are the tricks for garnishing quinoa:

  • Quinoa is delicate, not only in flavor but also because each grain is just so tiny! Don’t garnish it with heavy things like beans, canned corn or chicken. 
  • Fresh herbs go a long way in quinoa. 
  • So do toasted pine nuts.

Here are some of my favorite add-ins for quinoa. Use what you have in the house to throw together a delicious quinoa dish. 

(For 1 cup uncooked quinoa

  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • a total of 2 large handfuls of freshly chopped herbs. Use 1 or all of the following:
  • 1 ripe avocado cut into cube sized pieces
  • a handful of toasted pine nuts
  • roasted asparagus (cut asparagus into bite size pieces BEFORE you cook it)
  • ½ head radicchio cut into very thin slaw

Once the quinoa is dressed with its flavor base, add your garnishing ingredients. It is possible your add-ins will dull the pizazz of the quinoa at first, so TASTE the quinoa after and add to the flavor base if needed. 

How to Spruce Up Leftover Quinoa:

I like to eat quinoa as soon as it is done, but if I let it sit for a few hours or put the leftovers in the fridge, the flavor can get dull. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and an extra squeeze of fresh lemon. 

Elana’s Favorite Go-To Quinoa Throw-Togethers:

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Fresh Mint

Basically what I do at home when I have nothing else in the house to eat.

  • cooked quinoa (from 1 dry cup)
  • Elana’s Flavor Base
  • 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 large handful fresh Italian parsley leaves or cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 large handful of toasted pine nuts

The Jen Stein Simms Quinoa Salad

At the beginning of my cooking career I cooked for my friend Jen and her husband for a short stint. Jen never stopped talking about the quinoa and forced me to put the exact recipe in a cooking class so she could come.

  • Cooked quinoa (from 1 dry cup)
  • Elana’s Flavor Base
  • 1 handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro, freshly chopped
  • 1 bunch bite-sized roasted asparagus
  • 1 avocado, cut into cubes
  • 1 handful toasted pine nuts

The Smarty Quinoa

I made this one night for a panel discussion event for SMARTY, a totally inspiring entrepreneurial women’s group that I am a member of. I cooked  voluntarily to promote Meal and a Spiel. It was such a hit, Amy Swift, the founder, asked me to come back regularly and offered to pay for it. That is some good quinoa!

  • Cooked quinoa (from 1 dry cup)
  • Elana’s Flavor Base
  • 1 small handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 small handful cilantro, freshly chopped
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 handful toasted pine nuts
  • 1 avocado cut into cubes

And my Quinoa Tabouli with Four Fresh Herbs

 

Want to take cooking classes with Elana in Los Angeles? Go to mealandaspiel.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Elana Horwich is the founder of Meal and a Spiel, a boutique Beverly Hills cooking school and online recipe resource based on the philosophy that anyone can learn to cook. Her...

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