Not to brag or anything, but I’ve been into quinoa since before it was cool. I grew up with a slightly hippie mom who forbade sugar cereals and soda and thought that carob was an acceptable alternative to chocolate. We also rarely had red meat. She provided proteins from fish, chicken and tofu and, of course, quinoa. I became a vegetarian when I was 14 and finally began to appreciate my mother’s health-conscious ways. Because of her, I already had several healthy recipes under my belt. Of course, it never hurts to have more.
Quinoa has been very popular, of late. David Lynch even cooked up a bowl as a special feature on the “Inland Empire” DVD. And now we have Jessica Harlan and Kelley Sparwasser’s terrific cookbook, “Quinia Cuisine”, which boasts “150 Creative Recipes for Super-Nutritious, Amazingly Delicious Dishes”. If you’re skeptical about quinoa, that claim might sound like a bit of an oversell. Perhaps it’s because there are still a lot of people out there who are suspicious of it. I can understand why. It looks weird. It smells a little strange before you cook it and especially before you give it a good rinse. But trust me when I tell you that this strange little food really can be “amazingly delicious”.
“Quinoa Cuisine” is a terrifically laid out cookbook with an unusually worthwhile introduction, outlining its history and health benefits as well as many cooking methods and a few factoids. For instance, did you know that quinoa is NOT actually a grain? I did not. Apparently, it’s more closely related to beets, spinach and chard. What you’re actually eating is quinoa seeds, thus making it a “pseudograin”. I won’t spoil the whole thing for you. I’ll just say that I usually skim over introductions to pretty much every book I read. Not this time.
The actual recipes in the book are coded with helpful symbols that indicate such qualities as “30-minutes or less”, “gluten-free”, “kid friendly” and vegan or vegetarian.
The first chapter consists of “Essential Recipes” which are not only recipes you’ll make often, they also appear as part of other recipes later in the book. This is where you might begin to realize the true magic of quinoa. You can make every damn thing with it, from pancakes to pizza dough, tortillas to pie crust. If you’re living gluten free and didn’t know about quinoa this book will probably change your life.
From there, the book moves through every meal, blowing your mind with options: Breakfast, Starters, Salads, Soups & Stews, Side Dishes & Pilafs, Meat & Fish, Vegetarian and even Dessert. There are also special sections for Packed Lunches and Party Food. This is a truly comprehensive book that transcends genre and cuisine ethnicity. Think of your favorite dish. I’ll bet you cash money that there is some version of it in there. And, as a side bet, I wager that you’re going to love it made with quinoa. Maybe I have a little bit of a gambling problem. But that doesn’t mean I’m not right about this.
My one complaint with this book is that, apart from the front and back covers, there aren’t any photos of the food. I’m a visual person and I always like to compare my completed dish with the photo in the book, just to make sure I did it right. Granted, I get kind of annoyed with the step-by-step photos that food bloggers are so fond of. I don’t need to see what all my ingredients look like laid out on the counter together. But a little food porn is what often draws me to a recipe. I know they probably wanted to make more room for recipes (and possibly to save money by printing in black and white). But I wouldn’t mind a slightly higher cover price for the benefit of one little picture for each recipe.
Apart from the lack of photos, I am perfectly pleased with “Quinoa Cuisine” and highly recommend it to anyone who is already a fan or even a little quinoa curious.