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Curious About Quinoa

(post, Kathleen Bauer)

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Believe it or not, the cookbook that started me on my quest to break out of my starch rut (Potatoes, rice or pasta?) was written by some nutty group that believed that life on earth began with vacationing extraterrestrials. A gift from a well-intentioned friend, it was, as I recall, mostly if not completely vegetarian, and had some great recipes for using whole grains.

What grains had to do with our intergalactic origins I never quite figured out and the book has long since been purged from our shelves, but I was reminded of it the other day when I had a warm quinoa salad that our neighbor Susana had made.

Originally grown by the Incas, uncooked quinoa (pron. KEEN-wah) looks like tiny brick-red seeds that, after washing and cooking, have a faintly nutty flavor with a bit of crunch. It seems to combine especially well with vegetables and could be served warm or cold, and was perfect for an early summer backyard picnic. And no, no UFOs were sighted.

Quinoa, Fennel and Cherry Tomato Salad

1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 bulb fennel, halved, trimmed and sliced
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
Several chive stems and flowers for garnish
1 c. house vinaigrette

Bring 2 cups water to boil, add quinoa and reduce heat to bare simmer, cooking until all the water is absorbed. Rinse in cold water and drain to stop cooking. Place in mixing bowl and add other ingredients, pouring in the vinaigrette and stirring to combine. Chill or serve at room temperature.