Want to trade places? Okay, not really. I realize the North American polar freeze has reached the level of pain and suffering, rather than just hot chocolate and marshmallows.
Right? I know it, yet...
The lack of snow here is beginning to grate. I love Munich and I am not likely to part ways with this city any time soon, but I do miss a good winter snowstorm. So the irrational part of my brain is experiencing a twinge of jealousy for those of you on the other side of the Atlantic. Feel free to want to punch me in the face.
Anyway, in such instances when I get nostalgic for America (remember the great Colorado blizzard of 2003? Or Snowmageddon or Snowpocalypse or whatever it was in DC in 2010? Ahhhh), I usually deal with it by cooking comfort foods and channeling a feeling of home. Yesterday, odd though it may seem, that comfort food was quinoa. Quinoa is one of those hearty grains that is perfect for winter, über-healthy, and not yet as popular in Germany as it is in the US (they're more of a potato people over here).
Cooking grains is an important skill, and once you master it, quite easy actually. It's usually just a matter of patience, timing, and seasoning - my strategy is to figure out the exact method I like best, and then never mess with it ever again. I've got my rice preparation down to a science (I bake it in the oven - it's amazing how well it works), and couscous I could make with my eyes closed (okay, maybe not literally, since I rely on a kitchen scale for exact measurements).
The tricky part about quinoa is getting it to be fluffy rather than sticky or mushy (e.g. overcooked). This is my favorite basic quinoa recipe, and as with almost all grain recipes, it is adaptable based on whatever ingredients you have on hand (e.g. if you don't have leeks, onions or shallots are a good substitute).
So, if you're holed up at home right now waiting out a storm or just too afraid to venture outside into the cold, and you have quinoa in the cupboard, I recommend that you cook up a comforting pot of this quinoa.
Caramelized Leek Quinoa
My most important tricks for fluffy quinoa are rinsing the quinoa well first, using less water than specified on the box when cooking, and leaving the pot to stand, covered, longer than you might think in order to let all of the liquid evaporate. This recipe is sized for 2-3 servings - you can easily double the ingredients, but leave the cook times the same.
1 cup (170 g) quinoa
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (25 g) grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (50 g) green onions, chopped
pinch of sea salt
1. Rinse quinoa in cold water two to three times. Let excess water drain out.
2. Combine water, a couple tsp olive oil, and the bouillon cube in a heavy pot, with a lid, on the stove. Heat to boiling.
3. Add quinoa to the boiling water, put lid on pot, and turn heat to low. Leave for 15 minutes and do not lift lid.
4. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp + of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a frying pan) on the stove.
5. Once hot, add the leeks and minced garlic to the frying pan. Sauté on high heat for about one minute.
6. Turn heat to medium-low and leave to cook, stirring occasionally so the garlic does not burn.
7. Once the quinoa has cooked for 15 minutes, turn the heat off, but leave the pot sitting on the burner, covered, for another 10 minutes.
8. At the same time, add 1 tsp of sugar and the balsamic vinegar to the leeks. Turn the heat to low and let it cook for the remaining 10 minutes while the quinoa rests.
9. After 10 minutes, remove the lid from the quinoa. It should be cooked through with no more liquid on the bottom of the pot. Fluff with a fork.
10. Add the leek mixture to the quinoa, and mix to integrate.
11. Add in the fresh parmesan, green onions, and a pinch of sea salt.
12. Serve warm, or as cold leftovers over a salad.