Thursday, June 10, 2010


After discovering a love for quinoa, I started searching online for interesting, good-quality recipes that used it. But I didn’t find as many as I expected, mainly because most people seem to use quinoa as an improvisational platform—throw some random vegetables and herbs and maybe a dressing on there and call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but (a) as a quinoa newbie and habitual rule-follower I was looking for specific instructions; and (b) most of these quinoa creations began to look suspiciously similar after a while. Who knew it might be so hard to find fresh and unique quinoa ideas? This one from Gourmet jumped out at me initially because I always get obsessive about eating fresh corn at this time of year, and secondly because the honey-butter dressing sounded strange and intriguing.

The method here is a little annoying; the quinoa is first boiled and then steamed, which the recipe claims will ensure “an unbelievably light and fluffy texture.” I’m not sure I noticed that much of a difference from quinoa cooked the regular way, although admittedly most of the pain of the steaming method came from my worries about which sieve to use—I have to use my fine-mesh one for rinsing raw quinoa because the raw grains are so teeny, but that sieve is too small to hold the quinoa once it’s cooked and expanded, so I had to use the colander/pasta insert that fits atop my saucepan, and I kept worrying that the grains of quinoa would fall through the larger holes, but mostly they clumped together obligingly and stayed put. Once that was resolved, it was a little awkward, but not terribly time-consuming, and in all other respects the recipe is fairly easy (although I hate cutting corn kernels off the cob—they fly everywhere!). I did fear that the dressing plus the corn would make for a too-sweet concoction, but that wasn’t the case; actually, it had a really subtle (almost too subtle?) flavor, mostly of mint and corn. It’s not my favorite quinoa dish (that honor goes to quinoa tabbouleh), but it’s light, pretty, refreshing, and versatile (it can be eaten warm, room-temperature, or cold, making it a nice work lunch or picnic dish), so I’ll probably make it again at some point.

Two tips: Thanks to this recipe, I now always boil my corn in the husk; not only is the corny flavor intensified this way, but it’s easier to shuck afterward (you don’t have to tug as hard to get the leaves off, and the silk seems to behave itself more instead of sticking to everything). And also, as you can see in the photo, I threw some crumbled feta atop this and it was quite good.

2 ears corn, shucked
1½ teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ teaspoons mild honey
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup quinoa (about 5 oz)
2 scallions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Crumbled feta (optional)

1. Put corn in a deep, wide pot, then add water to cover and bring to a boil, covered. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer corn with tongs to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels off cobs with a large heavy knife.

2. Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil in a 2-to-4-quart pot for cooking the quinoa.

3. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time. Add quinoa to boiling water and cook, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then fill the same pot with 1 inch of water, bring to a simmer, and set sieve over pot (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy, and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together lemon zest and juice, butter, honey, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

5. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with crumbled feta if desired.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good

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