This method comes straight from a Bolivian friend of ours who grew up in the Andes eating quinoa. The perfect texture is one that retains a little bit of a bite at its core even after it’s done cooking. First, rinse the quinoa several times. Quinoa has a natural soapy coating that acts as an insecticide. It should be rinsed off, or the quinoa will taste bitter when you cook it. Boxed quinoa is usually prerinsed, but give it a few good rinses anyway, just to be sure. Rather than cooking quinoa in plenty of water, and then draining it, as you would if you were preparing pasta, quinoa should be treated like rice: bring it to a rolling boil in exactly two times the amount of stock as quinoa. You then reduce it to a gentle simmer and let the quinoa cook, until it has absorbed all of the stock and has just about popped open. Overcooking, along with under-rinsing, can make quinoa taste bitter and destroy the perfect chew that makes it such a lovely and versatile seed.
Reprinted with permission from Paris Picnic Club © 2018 Shaheen Peerbhai and Jennie Levitt. Published by Sterling Epicure.
1 medium butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 1 ½-inch (4cm) cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
¾ cup (85g) hazelnuts
1 ½ cups (250g) quinoa
3 cups (720ml) Basic Vegetable Stock
2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced into thin rounds
2 cups (100g) fresh arugula
4 ounces (112g) feta
¾ cup (100g) pomegranate seeds
Hazelnut Oil Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon (15ml) white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (60ml) hazelnut oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F (215°C). In a large bowl, combine the cubed squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper. Spread the squash cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the squash is golden and tender.
After removing the squash, lower the heat to 350°F (275°C). Toast the hazelnuts in one layer on a baking sheet, until they’re fragrant and the skins look dark and papery. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, let them cool slightly, and then rub them between the palms of your hands to remove the skin. Don’t worry about skin that’s firmly stuck.
Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it several times under cold water and then draining it.
Heat the vegetable stock in a pot. Bring it to a simmer.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium-size saucepan and saute the leeks until they’re just golden (about 10 minutes). Season generously with pepper (hold off on the salt), and then add the quinoa, sauteing until it starts to toast with a nutty fragrance. Stir frequently and make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the hot stock to the pan and give the quinoa a good stir. Place the lid on the pan and turn up the heat to high. Once the stock is boiling vigorously, turn down the heat and continue to cook the quinoa until it has absorbed all of the liquid, about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know the quinoa is done, and has just the right texture and bite, when it looks like it has popped open, with its “tail” out.
Remove the quinoa from the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. Spread the quinoa in a thin layer on a baking sheet or a shallow bowl to let it cool quickly.
While the quinoa is cooling, prepare the vinaigrette by first whisking together the white balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Once the salt is dissolved, whisk in the hazelnut oil. Season to taste with black pepper and additional salt as necessary.
Once the quinoa has cooled, toss all ingredients (except the feta and a few pomegranate seeds) to coat with the white balsamic vinaigrette. Crumble the feta directly on top and finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds, salt, and pepper.