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I have recently developed this huge passion for cooking, even though I've been cooking since i was 15 and have been a chef for the last 10 years. I think I am addicted to it. Or am I addicted to eating my cooking? Either way, I want to share my experiences with whom ever is interested. That is why I started this blog. Currently I am self employed as a private/personal chef and a stay at home dad. I am very thankful to have ended my restaurant career not so long ago! It's a hard life, especially when your trying to raise a family! I live in Naples, Florida where I met my beautiful wife while working at a yacht club about 3 years ago. We now have a little 6 month old daughter and life as we know it has changed forever ( for the better)! There is something going on in the food world that is very exciting! People are starting to open their eyes a little. We're going back in time, back to the farm, back to the dinner table. Something that has to be done in my opinion. I spent a lot of time at the dinner table as a child and thought is was very beneficial in how I ended up. The thing I like best about being a chef is that I will never learn it all. Ever!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Q Foods

There's not a lot of foods that begin with the letter Q.  Lets see, there's quail, quiche, quince, and quesadilla.  But the one I want to talk about is Quinoa.  Pronounced (KEEN-wah), it is new to the American market.  It was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it "the mother grain."  I cooked with this ingredient for the first time the other day.  There is really nothing I could compare it to. In South American cuisine it is used extensively.  Hailed as the "supergrain of the future," quinoa contains more protein than any other grain.  It's considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids.  It is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and it provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients.  Yea, but how does it taste?  Good question!  To me it doesn't taste like much on its own, which makes it very versatile.  It has a delicate flavor (some people would say bland) and is often compared to couscous.
It's very easy to prepare, just like rice, but it cooks in about half the time.  I bought it at Costco, of all places,  in a 2 pound container, so I will be able to play with it for quit a while.  It can be served in any fashion: side dish, salad (like tabouleh), entree, soup, even in puddings.  It is also eaten for breakfast, like oatmeal.  I followed the directions on the back of the package and then tweaked it a little bit.  You can probably find it at any specialty store like Whole Foods.

Simply prepared, place quinoa in a fine strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear.  Drain well after rinsing.  Using 2 cups of liquid per cup of quinoa, combine the liquid and quinoa in a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender but still chewy and a white spiral-like thread appears around each grain, about 15 minutes.  For a richer flavor, quinoa can be toasted (Pilaf) in a dry skillet for a few minutes before cooking.  Stir continuously during the toasting to prevent burning and to toast the grain evenly.  If you want something a little fancy try this:

Quinoa with Toasted Almonds and Cranberries
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Soak quinoa for 1/2 hour in cold water.  Rinse thoroughly.  On medium heat, stir and toast the sliced almonds until golden.  Stir and roast the quinoa until dry and turning color.  Transfer toasted quinoa and toasted almonds and cranberries to a 2 quart saucepan.  Add chicken stock, salt, bay leaf and cinnamon stick.  Bring to boil, cover and turn heat to simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff gently with a fork and serve.

For more recipes visit http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/vegetarian-recipes/basic-quinoa.php

Live well
Eat well
Be well

Chef Don Paleno

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