Quazy for Quinoa!

All right, I am regular reader of Heidi Swanson's blog and I own Deborah Madison's vegetarian cookbook, but somehow it took my husband's diabetes to get me to try quinoa (KEEN-wah), a so-called magic grain that originated with the Incas, who considered it the sacred "mother of all grains". It contains all nine amino acids making it a perfect and complete food. So what took me so long? First of all, quinoa is not that easy to find where I live, not something you see on the shelves at Food Lion or even at the Harris Teeter. However, my daughter brought some back from Whole Foods when she was in Washington for New Year's, and so the gauntlet was laid down to get on the quinoa bandwagon and tapas night (the first since before the holidays) provided the perfect backdrop.

Now, those of you who have read this blog know the story of "Evil David" and tapas night, and know that it is a night to try new things, be adventurous, and David pushed the envelope courtesy of his mom Nicole, a French national turned American who wanted to come to tapas night but was feeling a bit under the weather. So David appeared at our door with some cassoulet made by his mother with sausage, duck confit and white beans; a dish of escargot with garlic, some huge chunks of incredible soft French cheese, and a loaf of Billy Bread from his friend who runs a bakery in Richmond. Since we were trying to watch Gavin's sugars, I was trying two new dishes to maximize veggies (sorry Mr. Lebovitz) and minimize carbs. One was a salad made with quinoa and the other was a spiced and herbed tofu in lettuce cups. Both recipes came from an Epicurious search and, I am sure you won't be surprised, I played with them both a little (hence Play with Food).

It was great after a day's work, that David's dishes were already done so we could start nibbling and some of the pressure was off me. We started with the escargot and slices of Billy Bread. Now I am an adventurous cook and eater, but I wasn't sure about escargot. I had only had it once before, and at the risk of sounding bourgeois, I wasn't sure it was my thing, and Gavin was even more unsure than I, however, David's escargot was garlicky and not too chewy, a perfect nibble with the delicious bread.

While the guys ate, I cooked the quinoa, and sliced the tofu to let it drain on paper towels. I made the quinoa recipe as called for, but multiplied everything and then added some more vegetables. This salad was delicious, a combination of tangy and sweet, with crunchy vegetables and sweet dried cherries. It was a great side dish and my husband, who isn't a fan of either couscous or rice really liked it. The bonus - two hours after dinner, his blood sugar was still stable, impossible to achieve with either rice or couscous (and even bulgur , which we have tried)!

Where are my pictures of this feast you might ask? I beat back everyone to try to get to get some pictures before the food was snarfed up only to find out that my batteries were dead! By the time I found some new AA's, , well, there was nothing left to photograph!

Epicurious-Inspired Quinoa Salad

3 cup quinoa

1 chopped red pepper

1 cup shelled edamame

1 diced red onion

1/4 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 seedless cucumber peeled and chopped

2 cups frozen white baby corn kernels, defrosted

2-3 chopped vine ripened tomatoes (quartered cherry tomatoes would also work)

Sweet White Wine Vinaigrette Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp sugar( I used two packets of sweet & low for my diabetic)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa, cool and toss with red pepper, edamame, onion, and dried tart cherries.
For vinaigrette dressing, whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and sugar(or substitute). Add salt and pepper. Mix dressing into salad and enjoy!

Play with Food's Version of Bon Appetit's Spicy Lime and Herbed Tofu in Lettuce Cups
Makes 6 first-course servings.


1/4 cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce

Tofu Salad Mixture

1/2 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup diced seeded plum tomato

2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeƱo chile

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil (preferably Vietnamese or Thai)

1 14- to 16-ounce package firm tofu, drained, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, patted dry

4 tbsp cornstarch

2 cups vegetable oil for frying tofu

6 large or 12 medium butter lettuce leaves

For dressing:Combine all ingredients and let mixture stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

For tofu:Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Shake tofu cubes in cornstarch and fry until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels and set aside until all tofu is fried. Add tofu and dressing to bowl; toss to coat. Place lettuce leaves on each of 6 plates. Divide tofu mixture among lettuce leaves and serve. Note: I would have made the dressing a little spicier, and I think this would be great with some mango or papaya or plum chunks added (a la vegetarian bulgogi).


katiez said…
I am also learning to use quinoa and really enjoying it! As to the escargot - I love them when someone else makes them but I
m not quite up to the task myself. Unlike my old neighbor who used to pluck them off the wall and drop them in her pocket - for later!
Truffle said…
I haven't tried it yet but you're making me very keen. It sounds delicious!
amysep said…
Interesting post. We saw quinoa on the supermarket shelf about 3 years ago and decided to give it a whirl. It's delicious and so healthy and more filling than most other side-dishes since it's a grain. Try it just like that - as a side dish in lieu of pasta, rice or couscous. cook it in some stock (chicken/veggie, etc.) for some extra flavor. We add roasted veggies too. -amy @ neverfull.wordpress.com
You've inspired me to try quinoa. And even if you didn't have good batteries, your descriptive words and recipe made me hungry enough. Maybe when you make this next time (or when I make it), we'll put up a picture of it!
Deborah Dowd said…
Amysep- I have been seeing quinoa around, but until now, just wasn't adventurous enough. I am glad I tried it!

Passionate Eater- Given the quality of my pix, the words were probably more descriptive! Let me know how you like quinoa.
Love, love, love quinoa. Glad to see you're back. You must feel better?
Deborah Dowd said…
katiez- I am not sure I would make escargot myself either!

Truffle- Something tht is delicious, versatile and healthy- you can't miss!

Susan- I started taking 1000 mg of vitamin C every hour for about 24 hours and drank LOTS of fluids and the next day, I felt like a different person. Thanks for asking.
Jade said…
Glad to see some posts since I'm trying to get into quinoa as well...thanks for the info!
Kevin said…
That quinoa salad sounds really healthy and tasty.
Deborah Dowd said…
Jade- Keep checking in, I will be posting more quinoa recipes. I just bought some quinoa pasta and am anxious to try it out!

Kevin- You should give it a try- it is really delicious, a great combination of flavors!
joey said…
I bought some for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it! :) I knew it was healthy but I didn't know it was that healthy...heehee, great news for me! :) Your salad sounds delicious!
Deborah Dowd said…
Joey- I just bought some quinoa pasta and even my fussy eater thought it was good!