Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quinoa "Build-A-Bowl" Party

It was Mother's Day and my request was for the family to join me in a party.  A Quinoa "Build-a-Bowl" Party.  Right now you're probably muttering to yourself just like my family members did, "why, and um...why, and really?" 
Yes, I can be a bit of a food nerd. But, I was so convinced that if they could just experience the flavors, the nuttiness, and the ease of this "perfect" grain they would fall in love with it, too. I'm not saying that Quinoa (Keenwa, Kinwa) can solve all the health problems in the world, but it's a start,'s a start.
The United Nations has named 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.  This ancient cereal contains 18% protein along with fiber, magnesium and iron.  It even has calcium, making it a great choice for vegans.  It's naturally Gluten Free and is one of the simplest foods to cook, ever.
Quinoa can be cooked like rice, or Quinoa flour can be used in baking and pasta, or the grains can be used in everything from baked goods to breakfast foods.  Gimme a flag, I'm ready to march!
I discovered Quinoa in cooking school when one of my favorite Chef instructors said, "If you're on an island and you can have only one food, pick Quinoa because it's the perfect grain."  Then we cooked some and it was bitter and I was so confounded.  

Did healthy have to be so bad tasting?  As it turned out, we had bulk Quinoa which needs to be rinsed to get the natural coating off of the grain that makes it bitter to taste and (hello, perfect universe) keeps the birds from eating it before it's harvested. When we cooked it correctly, I became a self-appointed ambassador.
Most Quinoa sold in stores has already been pre-washed and the instructions will guide you to just give it a quick rinse before cooking.  I recommend that for rice and all grains.

I'm convinced that anyone who thinks they don't like Quinoa has simply not found the way they like it.  Perhaps they cooked it in unseasoned water, then judged it to be bland. It's a food canvas that takes on the flavors you bring to the whole picture.
At the Quinoa Build-a-Bowl party, I put out tons of choices to mix and match, toss and turn, and pick and nibble.  
At one end of the table there were two choices of Quinoa. Both had been cooked in Vegetable Stock.  The Red Quinoa Mixed was warmer with a toasty bite.  
 Some of the items for mixing into their Quinoa bowls were for the meat lovers (tarragon roasted chicken and bacon.)
In another section, I had varied offerings of vegetables (red peppers, grilled corn from the cob, caramelized onions, grilled squash, black beans, rocket arugula, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans,etc.) 
There were toppings (nuts, cilantro, red onions, shredded cheeses, etc.)
I included fruits and nuts to show just how different Quinoa can be used.  My daughter eats Quinoa for breakfast, warmed with fruits and Almond milk.
To toss in or drizzle over the Quinoa, I made two different pours:  Honey Lime Cumin Vinaigrette and a Cinnamon Coconut Milk.
Of the seven members of our family there that day, four of them were guys.  They are loving and tolerant and very supportive, but I knew I was really testing their humor asking them to go along with my idea and call it their lunch.  Like I said, I waited til it was "Mother's Day" (sneaky, huh?)
After my little spiel about my "love for Quinoa", I let them party with simple directions to start with some Quinoa and then just have fun, you know, "building-a-bowl".  
We had some wine, some waters, some music going and a lot of jokes (mostly at my expense) flying around the room. 
I'm not kidding you, the buffet table was almost empty at the end of this meal.  For as much "guff" as I took, I also watched every single person return to that table to try another combination.  My Firefighter, 6'3" son who listened to my preaching with a patronizing grin admitted that he couldn't stop eating "this stuff."  
The conversation around the table turned into recommendations for the "perfect" bowl, and the right time to "garnish". 
They actually said the word, garnish. Which means they listened to me.  Huge Mother's Day gift.
So, maybe you don't need to have a whole party to try some of these combinations (although it was seriously fun.)  I just hope that your "take away" from my recap is a sense of confidence that you can create a wonderful, healthy and simply delicious meal from Quinoa.
And, no, I haven't been compensated or sponsored by any National board for the Inca Indian grain that is so mispronounced called, Quinoa.  Like I said, I'm a bit of a food nerd and I just love making you a star in your own kitchen.

**photos by ShowfoodChef and LVKM** 


1 cup Quinoa grains
2 cups Liquid (Stock, water, coconut milk or combo)

1) After rinsing the Quinoa and draining it, pour it into a saucepan with the liquid. 
2) Bring to a bowl, season, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the little grains sprout.  Check after 15 minutes.
3)  Fluff with a fork and serve warm, or cool and then keep in refrigerator for up to several days and use as needed in recipes.

RECIPE: Honey Lime Cumin Vinaigrette

1 oz. Honey
1 Lime (juice)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 oz. Olive Oil

1)  Whisk the honey and lime juice together.
2)  Whisk the cumin and olive oil together.
3)  Add the oil into the honey citrus, season with salt and pepper.  Whisk briskly to form an emulsion (or use an immersion blender.)

RECIPE:  Cinnamon Coconut Milk

1 Cinnamon stick
1 Cup Coconut Milk

1)  Pour the milk into a small sauce pan, add the cinnamon stick and bring to an almost simmer over low/med. heat.
2)  Remove from the heat, cover and allow to infuse for at least 15-20 minutes.
3)  Remove the cinnamon stick and chill the milk or serve warm.

Here are a few other Quinoa recipes for you to enjoy:



Christina said...

I WANT to like it too, Cathy, but so far no luck! I tried mixing a little quinoa flour when I made bread once, and we all tasted it and did not like that either :( Are we hopeless?

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Great idea, and definitely the perfect Mother's Day gift. I love quinoa, so I would happily have gobbled up huge bowls of it.

West Coast Cuban said...


West Coast Cuban said...


West Coast Cuban said...


showfoodchef said...

Thanks so much you guys! And, Christina, I'm thinking maybe try it the same way you like rice the most and see if the flavors and familiar increase your chances of liking it. I wouldn't push any food, except it's just so darn good for you. THe flour is tricky and it really needs to be used with other flours (ie, rice and almond, etc) if you're not used to it. But, hey, there's no one thing for everybody, right? With your talent for cooking I'm sure your family isn't missing anything on the food wheel anyway. :D

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

This was the best! I was a fan of keenwah before but this makes me wanna carry a flag too. Delicious. Can wait to make s a small build a bowl party for this weeks dinner.

Jenni said...

This is such a fun idea!!!! I love it!

Beth McCrea said...

I love quinoa. Never thought of having it for breakfast. To be clear, you make the quinoa w coconut milk and then when it's time for breakfast, you just add a little almond milk, fruit and warm it up? Also, what fruits tastes the best? Peaches?

showfoodchef said...

Beth- Thx. You CAN make the quinoa in Coconut milk, but I usually cook mine in veggie stock or water so that I can use it anyway I want all week. If you do it that way, just heat up the Almond Milk, or Coconut milk for pouring on (which will warm up the already cooked quinoa, too.) Hmmm, what fruits? What fruits don't, in fact. I've loved blueberries and peaches. I've also loved dried fruits and nuts for a breakfast or brunch serving. Hope this inspires your creations. :D

Anonymous said...

Looks like a fun idea. My husband and I are moving and this might be a fund going away party idea. Fairly easy, healthy and appealing to the veg and non-veg crowd I hope.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have had a hard time liking quinoa. I saw you on Home & Family today and thought I'd try this recipe. I made the savory version and let me tell you it was delish! I'm now a fan! Can't wait to try cooking it in coconut milk!