As Christmastime tends to be rather expensive when you're living on the meager budget of a graduate student stipend, we've had to be more creative with what we're eating lately and rob the cupboards of all of those unusual ingredients I've 'collected' over the years (yes, some of them have sat in there for years waiting to be used, as I have already confessed). One of these ingredients in quinoa. I'm really not sure when I bought it, or if I even used it once after buying it, but it was in the lazy susan under the counters and in a pretty little old-fashioned wire-topped glass jar that I also must have picked up at a second-hand store or one of our Goodwill raids. Now, just what could I do with something that has a name like quinoa - sounds like some exotic ingredient like Ms. Cooking diva, Chef Melissa, might pick off a tree in the tropics. But no, just a rather mundane and boring looking grain-like thing...
Then, from the recesses of my memory, I recalled a recipe from Nic, at Bakingsheet, for quinoa stuffed squash. We still have a random assortment of squash and potatoes from the mysterious re-appearance of Farmer Steve from our CSA, including something that looked vaguely reminiscent of Nic's carnival squash. Luckily, I also had the rest of the ingredients she called for. You can find her recipe here, and the only changes I made was to add some toasted walnuts and using dried cranberries instead of dried cherries. The smell from the oven when you take the squash out is heavenly - a combination of carmelized sugar and maple mixed in with the earthiness of the squash. And Nic means it when she says one squash feeds two. I made two, thinking that without the addition of a salad or something to round out the meal, we might still be hungry. I was wrong, but the leftovers will make a nice lunch this afternoon. Even the extra filling by itself was tasty.
Then I read more about quinoa today in an effort to educate myself a bit - it's actually not a grain at all, it's the seed of a plant distantly related to spinach! And it's also considered a 'supergrain,' which is good in light that we won't be eating the most balanced meals possible with our monetary constraints. Unfortunately, as I read more about it I also realized that I might actually have cooked millet instead of quinoa, but since there was no label and I don't have to background of using either one, I'm not sure which I used! Though I do think it looked like the same grain as Nic's picture...either way, it was tasty. The website I saw also recommended toasting the quinoa in a heated pan briefly before cooking it, and I think this would really add a nice roasted flavor that would go really well with this recipe. Try it - it's delicious!
written by Michelle at 9:35 AM