I do this thing once a week where I don’t eat meat — vegetarian Wednesday. It’s based on some impossible to verify stat I read somewhere that if everyone in the U.S. gave up meat one day a week it’d be equivalent to taking some untold millions of cars off the road, in terms of environmental impact. Sure, sounds great, it’s also a helpful check on my diet and a fun challenge.

On vegetarian Wednesday, I often build a meal around grains, in particular quinoa 1, a miracle food if ever there was one. Loaded with protein, fiber and amino acids, it’s gluten free and, basically, awesome. It’s also cheap, pretty much everywhere and easier to prepare than it is to pronounce (say it with me: KEEN-wa).

There is one secret to quinoa, though: you need to rinse it. This is actually a good tip for most grains but it’s vital for quinoa because otherwise you get a very bitter flavor. The easiest way to do this is dump it in the pot you’re going to cook it in, add plenty of cold water, stir, let the grains settle then drain the water. Repeat until the water isn’t cloudy any more, about three or four times.

The rest is pretty easy. I find that a 3:1 ratio of water to grain is good for most grains and quinoa is no exception — for two people, half a cup of dry quinoa to one and a half cups of water should be more than enough.

Bring everything to a boil, add a healthy three finger pinch of salt, then reduce heat to medium low and partially cover for 20 minutes or so. Stir occasionally, watch for over-boiling, you’ll know it’s done when it goes from tiny pod to exploded confetti. If there’s a little extra water, turn the heat up to high and boil it off for a minute, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork before serving.

I like to top a plate with black beans, a quick splash of olive oil, thinly sliced avocados, maybe some red onion and, of course, kosher salt and pepper. A glass of Malbec pairs pretty well.

  1. Ok, so, technically quinoa isn’t a grain because it’s a seed not a grass, like rice or barley. Whatever, you prepare it the same way.