Making Quinoa: Lessons Learned

One of the grains we prepared in cooking class at L’Academie de Cuisine last week was quinoa. Quinoa comes to us from South America, and was referred to as the “mother grain” by the Incans who used it as their main source of sustenance. Quinoa is loaded with manganese, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, tryptophan, and protein. As a matter of fact, quinoa contains more protein than any other grain according to By the way, it is pronounced “Keen-wah”, which seems to trip a lot of people up.

There are also different colors of quinoa available at the market. I typically use white, and that is what was used for this preparation.

I like to make quinoa at home, but I have to admit we usually get one of the quick-cook grain and rice mixes that have quinoa in it, and are already seasoned. The quinoa that Chef Brian Patterson taught us to make is really delicious. He used an assortment of spices to flavor it, and incorporated carrots, cauliflower, peas, and even dried apricots to make the most wonderful quinoa I have ever tasted. To top it all off, this was not a difficult dish to prepare. It did not take very long at all, and most of the cooking time was not hands-on. This preparation is also very versatile. You could easily switch up the spices, veg, and flavorings to make it a totally new dish. This quinoa is vegetarian, and could easily be made into a protein-rich healthy vegan dish by subbing olive oil for the butter.

This was another dish where we used a cartouche, and I thought I would include a YouTube video I found, which shows simply and quickly how to make one:

To make the Quinoa, we used:

An assortment of spices- in this case a few star anise, 2-3 sticks of cinnamon, some cardamom pods, a few cloves, some black peppercorns, and a couple chile peppers (I happened to have some dried Arbol chile peppers).

1-2 tablespoons of butter

1 small onion (or half of a large one), minced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 carrots, peeled and diced

about 1/4 head of cauliflower, broken into tiny florets, stem discarded


olive oil

1 c. quinoa, rinsed in strainer

1 handful frozen peas

1 handful golden raisins

fresh lemon juice (actually, I was out of lemons so I used a generous squeeze of grapefruit juice, and it worked fine)

2 cups water

Optional add-ins: Saffron, dried apricots, pine nuts, currants, raisins, dried cherries, etc.

To Make Delicious Quinoa:

Start, by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.

Toast all the spices together in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant, and then wrap and tie them in cheesecloth.

Cut a cartouche (as described in the video above) from parchment paper to fit the oven-safe pot you will be using.

Now, get the rest of your mise en place ready. If you don’t know, mis en place (or “putting in place” in French) means to get everything you need set up and ready to go, before you start cooking. This way, once you start cooking, you can focus on the food instead of chopping, cooking, and trying to find your ingredients at once.

In the picture, you can see that everything is chopped, measured, and ready. I put the onions, carrots, cauliflower, and garlic in one bowl. In another bowl I had the frozen peas, raisins, and spice sachet. I also had my butter, olive oil, salt, and water.

To begin cooking, heat the butter in your oven-safe pan over medium heat, and add the onions, carrots, cauliflower, and garlic with a dash of salt. Stir occasionally, letting the onions sweat and the vegetables soften.

Once the onions are translucent and the other veg has begun to soften, add in your cup of rinsed quinoa.

Allow the quinoa to toast with the onions and veg for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.

Next, carefully add your 2 cups of water, and stir.

Allow the mixture to barely come to a boil.

Add in your peas, raisins, and spice sachet.

Gently press your cartouche on top of the simmering liquid (it should be direct contact with the liquid).

Put the pot into the middle of the oven, and check after 20 minutes to see if the water is absorbed.

When water is absorbed, remove from oven, allow to sit for a few minutes, and fluff with a fork.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir, taste for salt, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Don’t be shy with the salt.

This really was the best quinoa I have eaten. I served it with a kale and grapefruit salad (yes, kale…again!). We also had pork chops that I pan-seared with a sauce of citrus juices, garlic, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, and white wine…finished with butter, of course!

Did I say it was delicious?

It was. I hope you will try it. Leave me a comment if you have any questions.

In case you are interested in more quinoa recipes, here are some links for you. I haven’t tried all of these yet, but all look interesting:

Spinach and Quinoa Salad from the Bite House

Quinoa and Egg Breakfast Wrap from Savoring the Thyme

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Pistachio Butter and Balsamic Soy Quinoa from Beyond Salmon

Quinoa Skillet Bread from 101 Cookbooks…I did try this one, and I really like it

Happy Cooking,



2 thoughts on “Making Quinoa: Lessons Learned

  1. This sounds and looks delicious! How about a do-over? I buy the food and you do the cooking. 🙂 I’m learning a lot from your blog. Love, Mum

  2. this was really good and not hard at all. My first attempt at a cartouche did end up being a snowflake, but only because the kids were watching :).
    Thanks for the delicious recipes and tips.

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