The result was a minor revelation: This quinoa was fluffier and slightly clumpier, which made it seem less flyaway. I ate some topped with leftover vegetables, and it wasn’t half bad.
Then I noticed a few soup recipes, and had a larger discovery. Because I wouldn’t really be chewing the soup, the fact that quinoa is so delicate surely wouldn’t bother me. I soaked and rinsed more quinoa and tossed it into a black bean and spinach soup, letting it swell and cook in the vegetable broth. The mixture thickened into something of a stew, and thanks to a healthy dose of a favorite spice (smoked paprika), it hit the spot. The quinoa wasn’t all that noticeable, and that was fine by me.
Finally, I started to have a sneaking feeling that one of the keys to learning to love — or at least like — quinoa was in defining what it is and what it isn’t: a seed, not a grain. So perhaps I needed to treat it as such. To that end, I followed Polisi’s instructions for toasting the raw quinoa in a little oil, just the way you might toast sesame seeds, which are about the same size. I was left with a half cup or so of nutty-tasting, crunchy seeds, which I kept in a jar on the countertop and started sprinkling onto various things: salads, soups and, possibly best of all, my breakfast of yogurt with granola. This was quinoa I could sink my teeth into, literally.
Polisi suggested I try pureeing quinoa into soups and smoothies, and baking with it, both of which are on my to-do list. In the meantime, she had one more idea for me: Had I tried quinoa patties?
As it turns out, I have. Up until my most recent explorations, this was the only quinoa recipe I could say I liked; my sister regularly makes a version from Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Every Day” cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2011). Polisi and I have adapted that recipe ourselves, with one big difference: I cut the quinoa with an equal amount of barley. You know, to give the cakes a little more substance and to use a grain I’ve always loved rather than merely one I’m still getting to know.
Black Bean, Quinoa and Spinach Stew
Curried Barley and Quinoa Cakes
Yonan, on book leave this year in Maine, is author of “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One” (Ten Speed Press, 2011). He can be reached through his Web site, www.joeyonan.com.