Food Challenge #3: Kala’s Quinoa Pudding
January 13, 2010 2 Comments
Last week, one of my closest and dearest friends, Kala, sent me a food challenge. I point out that she is one of my closest and dearest friends—we have known each other since we were 11—because when she told me that she wanted me to help her find a tasty way to make quinoa, I absolutely wanted to make the best quinoa ever in life because I love her dearly. When she then told me she had never actually had some that tasted good, I got a little nervous, because I really didn’t want to disappoint her. When I started looking up recipes online that described quinoa as “nutty,” “crunchy,” “a super-food” but never “delicious” or “yummy,” I started thinking that this was going to be a little harder than I thought. But it wasn’t until I asked another friend what she thought of this ultimate protein and she said, “it’s kind of like couscous, but it has these little tail things,” that I thought that disappointing one of my closest and dearest friends was really not that big a deal. I’m sure that Hallmark even has a card to make up for it.
Since I have been at a loss for cooking ideas lately, and as the days ticked by without the slightest bit of inspiration, a quinoa pudding started to sound better and better (or at least the idea of it. Kala and I decided that I’d try to make a variation on rice pudding since she wanted sweet over savory). I really think it’s difficult to screw up anything that has sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, but I also thought that if anything could, it would be some kind of grain with a tail (I really hoped that that part of the description was an exaggeration, but there it was right on the package—although what my friend called tails are technically called “germ rings.” Even better…).
I’ve had mixed success with about five rice pudding recipes I’ve tried: either the rice was too hard, too soft, not sweet enough, blah blah blah, so I knew I’d have to find a recipe specific to quinoa, since I wasn’t familiar with its texture or taste. Surprisingly, there were a number of good ones out there, which means more folks have jumped on the crunchy-almost like couscous-but-with-a-tail bandwagon than I knew (can you tell that I really can’t get over that tail/germ thing?? I mean, really. It’s just too much for me). All of the recipes I found online said that the quinoa needed to be picked over and separated out and washed thoroughly in unicorn tears, which sounded way more complicated than I really could be bothered with.
Luckily Trader Joe’s sells boxes of it and I’m going to hope that TJ did all of the hard work for me.
So I open the package and it was literally like putting my head in damp soil, which, since this is a food blog and all, is not the best description for something I’m trying to encourage you to make, but that’s what came to mind and I’m all about honesty here (wait! Perhaps I should cut to the chase and tell you now that it turned out to be super tasty, so that all of this lead up doesn’t have you swearing off quinoa and its goodness before you even try it. It was yummy! I promise!). Needless to say that as it was cooking, the earthy smell intensified to the point that when it was ready I said out loud, “I really don’t want to taste this,” and had an internal debate about how on the one hand I really enjoy this blog, but on the other, I’m not prepared to eat just anything for the sake of coming here to tell you about it. But my New Year’s resolution to commit myself to this little endeavor won out, and I tasted about three grains. And they were crunchy. But! Also kind of bland and inoffensive (again, strange words to use to describe food, but that made me realize I could work with it).
Even though I knew the sugar, coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla mixture was going to work, I really didn’t expect the recipe to turn out as well as it did. I mean, I had to walk around my apartment for a good 5 minutes after it came out of the oven humming the theme to Rocky to gear myself up to taste it. And I’m really happy I did, because it was sweet and creamy, with a lightness that made it more appealing than rice pudding, which I love, but will totally cheat on with this quinoa pudding. I actually had to convince myself to move away from the pan so there’d be some left for pictures. And, it was even better the next day when all the flavors had soaked in and it was room temperature.
So, yeah, I am smitten with a super-grain. I had some for breakfast and have been snacking on it as I type this up. If I weren’t going out to dinner, I’d have a bit more. I almost feel like I should buy it a card and some flowers…
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (cook according to package directions)
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together egg, coconut milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl until just combined. Stir in quinoa and apricots and pour into a buttered 9-inch square metal baking pan.
Bake in middle of oven until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.