Fruits and Nuts: An Open Letter to Quinoa

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Dear Quinoa,

The first time I met you, you were red and I bought you on impulse (like many other things I own).  I didn’t quite know what to do with you so I gave you a quick rinse and cooked you plain and like Greek yogurt, thought you were the most vile thing I had ever encountered.  Bitter, strange, and inedible, you met my garbage can quickly and without abandon.

Since then, I’ve given you a few other tries because you are a healthy whole grain loaded with protein and fiber.  You are like that guy or gal that everyone wants one to date and yet one continues to chase after the douchey love interest thinking one can love him or her into being not-so-douchey.  I found out that I need to rinse and clean you thoroughly, like a skunk-sprayed dog, to eliminate those soapy saponins that make you taste so awful.  I realized you need a lot of extra coaching ingredients, so I made a tasty salad with you out of mango, bell pepper, black beans, and kicky spices and I admit, I kind of liked it.  I tried you in different colors like white and black and learned that white is the least bitter and black requires some extra rinsing and TLC, much like that first red version of you.  Last fall, I even made you into flavorful and delicious patties thanks to Joy the Baker.

Shortly before I embarked on my big cleanse I enjoyed you as an accompaniment to my lamb dish at Trata, a restaurant that recently opened here.  I knew I had to somehow replicate this version of you at home.  I searched online for apple and onion quinoa recipes, finding many that featured almonds, pecans or walnuts.  These recipes reminded me of a funny story that happened some time ago at a work event.  I believe I’ve mentioned that I work in marketing and public relations for a local non-profit that provides medical care and supportive services for people living with HIV.  We are now exploring offering services to HIV-negative individuals.  As one can imagine, it is a very LGBT-friendly and affirming organization, and many of my co-workers are gay.  While setting up for one of our fundraising events, one of my gay male co-workers and I were laying out granola bars in several varieties.

“Look, So-and-so, we have ourselves some almond and some fruit and nut bars this year,” I said.

My colleague was a bit ornery due to the lack of coffee but in typical quick-witted fashion, he replied, “Fruit and nut.  Great!  Something for both me AND you!”

Lady Sensory’s Autumn Fruit and Nut Quinoa

I came up with this based on what I had in the house and it turned out to be delicious.  I highly recommend that if you are new to quinoa, use the white/natural variety because that seems to be less bitter than black or red.

3 tbsp butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced (I used a Comice pear)

1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced (I used a Honeycrisp apple)

1/4 cup dried currants

2 tsp raw honey

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and black pepper, to taste

2 cups quinoa, rinsed very well and drained (I used a combination of black & white quinoa)

2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup chopped pistachios (I used the ones already shelled in the bag and they are salted so reduce the added salt if you have sodium restrictions)

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley (only because I didn’t have fresh – use 2 tbsp of fresh, finely chopped, if you have it)

Rinse the quinoa really well.  I mean it. Like, put the colander in a bowl and soak and rub the grains together, changing out the water and repeating for about a half-hour. This really helps in getting all the bitterness out and you can do it while you chop up your onion and fruits.  In a 4.5 saucepan or fancy pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the pear, apple, honey, thyme, salt and pepper and cook until slightly softened (about 3-4 more minutes).  Add the dried currants and then add the rinsed and drained quinoa and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, cover, and cook for another 15-20 minutes.  Remove the cover and stir. Continue to cook, uncovered, over low heat until remaining liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and fold in the pistachios and parsley. Cover and let stand for about 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Quinoa, I swore that after my detox you would be the very first grain I ate and yet, I betrayed you with a piece of garlic bread at a restaurant.  Oh, quinoa, I should have known better.  When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with quinoa, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  You sure as hell didn’t have me at hello, but you complete me.  Yes, that was an odd mix of When Harry Met Sally and Jerry Maguire quotes. Sorry about that, but I told you I’m a nut.

Love,

Lady Sensory

P.S.  While we’re on the subject of my day job, here’s a shameless self plug of an awesome new video testimonial project that we unveiled this past week.

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