Keen on quinoa
May 6, 2012 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I have a package of quinoa from Trader Joe's with an expiration date of 3/2011. I've decided I'm going to try cooking with it as long as it's not rancid. I've never cooked or eaten quinoa before though so how do I know if it has gone rancid? Assuming the quinoa is edible, what ingredients go particularly well with quinoa?
posted by Constance Mirabella to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
My instinct suggests that if it smells like fermentation when you cook it, then it is probably no good.

You can eat it with any of the things you would eat couscous with, or many of the things you would serve with rice.
posted by keeo at 7:39 PM on May 6, 2012

I usually make it with chicken broth and a nice piece of fish.
posted by rhizome at 7:50 PM on May 6, 2012

Unless you live somewhere with a very hot summer, and the quinoa was on your shelf through the summer, it's probably fine. Have a little sniff of the open bag before you cook it: if it smells grainy/nutty/sweet it's fine, if it smells sour or bitter or like rancid butter, it's no good.
posted by thylacinthine at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine being even a little worried about this.

If you do worry about this kind of thing, quinoa stores perfectly in the freezer. just pop the next container in the freezer and use it a little at a time.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on May 6, 2012

Oddly, I have an open box of Trader Joe's Red Quinoa dated 6/2011 sitting on my counter. It's fine. And it'll be fine in 3 more months unless it gets wet. It probably doesn't have maximum flavor but it won't hurt anything.

I use it pretty much like rice. In fact, I cook it in the rice cooker. I serve it with beans, chili, straight up, whatever.
posted by chairface at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2012

Saute some veggies and mix that in there, maybe with a piece of sausage on the side. Quinoa's great...
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 8:17 PM on May 6, 2012

Almost anything goes well with quinoa. I like to cook a couple vegetables, while simmering quinoa (in water or vegetable broth till, the liquid is gone), then combine them at the end. A couple of dishes I like:

- sautee garlic and sliced portabello mushrooms in olive oil, add spinach near the end, then add those vegetables to cooked quinoa; top with parmesan and/or feta cheese

- slice carrots and parsnips, put them in an oil-coated pan, sprinkle with rosemary, drizzle honey, and roast the vegetables in the oven; mix with quinoa at the end
posted by John Cohen at 8:29 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am a big fan of quinoa with caramelized onions and a bit of salt. I could eat a whole bowl of that. Sometimes I add roasted brussels sprouts, or roasted cauliflower. I tend to find it a little dry without a big of extra olive oil on top.
posted by shamash at 8:33 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dry grain goes… rancid? News to me. In my case, insects get to it first. Check for bugs, it would be a little icky if you dumped the quinoa into hot water and saw a bunch of little six-legged bodies floating up.

As a grain, it's basically a neutral base for whatever else is in your dish. It does have a flavor, as do all whole grains, but it's very subtle. The simplest thing you could do is just boil it, drain it, and add a pinch of salt and a small dollop of butter. Or you could go fancy and mix in roasted veggies or whatever. It's quinoa. Be creative!

(NB: Yes, it's supposed to look that way when it cooks.)
posted by Nomyte at 8:36 PM on May 6, 2012

I like breakfast quinoa. Also, I'm pretty sure I keep quinoa around that long without issue.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:38 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you'd rather enjoy fresh quinoa yourself, you could always put the old stuff in a bird feeder.
posted by amtho at 8:44 PM on May 6, 2012

I think your quinoa is probably still fine, as long as it's been in a cool dry place. Do make sure that you rinse it thoroughly before you cook it, because it will taste soapy if you don't. (It's naturally coated with saponins.)

I like to cook quinoa in broth and then mix it with lots of chopped parsley, some mint or dill, and diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and chives. I add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. It's kind of like tabbouleh. Sometimes I'll put cooked chickpeas in too.

The latest Tastespotting blog post has four different cooking methods (three on the stovetop, one in the rice cooker) and a recipe for a Waldorf-type salad that I haven't tried but looks good.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:52 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

We use it as a pasta and rice replacement/supplement, so anything of that sort would probably do nicely. Meat + quinoa + sauce works, as does meat + quinoa + a little butter and pepper or just meat + quinoa, from personal experience. It's a really versatile grain, you can go as fancy or as simple as you want.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:53 PM on May 6, 2012

Seconding it as a great breakfast. Add a little orange juice or other citrus juice during cooking then toss with toasted nuts and seasonal fruits. Try with strawberries, apples, walnuts, almonds, a little bit of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Or on the flip savory side with vinegar, olives, garlic and feta.
posted by emypocu at 9:01 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Bolivian in-laws make tabboli using quinoa instead of bulgar. I like the quinoa tabbouli much, much better.

Also, you can use quinoa in any way you would normally use rice.
posted by luneray at 9:21 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is a great recipe; it's for quinoa-stuffed red peppers, but you can also just make the quinoa mixture and have it on its own, in a tortilla, with random veggies, whatever. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:07 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Quinoa has sort of a nutty, oaty taste so it goes well with lots of things - fruit and dried fruit, nuts/seeds, greens, squash, cumin/chili, etc. It's great in salads if cooked slightly al dente.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:36 PM on May 6, 2012

This quinoa risotto is amazing.
posted by cilantro at 10:37 PM on May 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been having quinoa for breakfast, plain or cooked in broth, topped with an egg fried over-easy (I like getting runny yolk all over the quinoa). It keeps me full for longer than oatmeal does!
posted by estherbester at 10:56 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I personally wouldn't eat if it wasn't in a sealed pouch bag inside the box because I have an allergy to dust/mold, and you can't always SEE those things. I have actually gotten fairly sick from eating food made with expired flour that wasn't kept sealed.

If you don't have an allergy you should be okay tho, and if it was sealed you should be ok.
posted by spunweb at 12:07 AM on May 7, 2012

David Lynch Loves Quinoa
posted by JohnR at 3:37 AM on May 7, 2012

I like to cook the quinoa and add cilantro, feta cheese, cucumber, lime juice, olive oil and either blueberries or pomegranate. One of my favourite salads.

I agree that your quinoa is probably fine, but rinsing/soaking isn't a bad idea.
posted by Paper rabies at 3:37 AM on May 7, 2012

Since you mention you've never cooked quinoa before: be sure you soak it first; otherwise it'll be bitter. (I made this mistake. You do not want to make this mistake.)

I see that sites suggest different soak times, though Alton Brown apparently endorses a different method: soaking it repeatedly until the soak water is clear.
posted by johnofjack at 4:35 AM on May 7, 2012

Dry grain goes… rancid? News to me.

Yes. All grains have some oil in them, and that oil oxidizes over time and you get rancid grain.

And I don't think rancidity makes something inedible anyway. Just nasty tasting.
posted by gjc at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just rinse it once under runnning water - comes out fine.
posted by Miko at 6:18 AM on May 7, 2012

Best answer: I give it a good rinse and cook it in the rice cooker. I like to fry up a couple slices of good bacon. Remove the bacon and get rid of most of the grease. Sautee some onion, a jalapeno and some garlic in what's left of the grease. Toss the quinoa in, chop the bacon and add it back in, then enjoy. The bacon maybe mitigates the healthfulness of the quinoa, but damn it's tasty.
posted by Perthuz at 6:50 AM on May 7, 2012

Best answer: My favorite thing to do with quinoa: rinse, cook per directions with some garlic and salt in the water, chill after cooking, mix with diced tomato, diced cucumber, black beans, and chopped cilantro, make a dressing out of fresh lime juice, minced garlic, a little bit of veggie stock and salt/pepper, and then top with avocado.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

We had shrimp scampi over quinoa last night, as a matter of fact. It was great!
posted by Lynsey at 12:30 PM on May 7, 2012

It is probably fine, as long as it did not get wet. I cook it in the microwave: 2 parts water to 1 part grain, for 15 minutes on high (in a covered bowl). Treat it like you would rice. It goes great with curried chickpeas.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 5:56 PM on May 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help, everybody. I decided to treat it like a pasta my first time so I mixed it with TJ's Artichoke spread with bits of bacon and kalamata olives for lunch tomorrow. It was also surprisingly easy to cook once I decided to treat it like rice.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:50 PM on May 7, 2012

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