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Pesto Manifesto: Secrets to the Perfect Pesto

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Photo via Flickr member Yannic

The first time I ever tasted pesto, atop a bowl of tortellini, it was not a life-changing experience, but it was pretty darn close. I forgot all about the tortellini as the flavors of the pesto seemingly exploded in my mouth: bright basil, tasting of the earth; zingy, pungent garlic; rich and flavorful cheese; a nuttiness from the olive oil, and from what I can in retrospect identify as pine nuts. What was this magical green paste? Pesto has this effect: it has an inimitable flavor.

What is pesto?

If you’re not familiar with pesto (or even if you are), it may be helpful to state, for the record, what it is, exactly.

Pesto is a sauce of Italian lineage, made by crushing together a melange of simple ingredients: most famously basil, salt, olive oil, garlic, and cheese. It’s not only the ingredients but the method that makes it unique: the word “pesto” is actually derived from “pestle”, possibly referring to the fact that it in the early days it was likely made with a mortar and pestle.

While there are thousands of variations on pesto, the one called pesto alla Genovese is probably the version you know best. It is made with garlic, salt, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, cheese, and of course, basil from Genoa.

In Italy, there are other variations, such as pesto alla siciliana, which is similar, but with the key difference that it employs tomatoes and uses less basil.

How is it used?

Pesto is a very versatile sauce. It can be used on pasta, as sauce atop meat, as a bread topping, or even treated like a condiment. I personally find that it’s one of those things that makes everything better, so I wouldn’t be adverse to enjoying pesto on top of a burger, or perhaps atop a cheesy omelette in the morning.

Taste profile

So, what makes a good pesto? It should be several things all at once: rich, zingy, light, luxuriant, earthy. A good pesto is bright, It should reflect each of the ingredients in it, all in one spectacular and assertively flavored moment. It should be pungent from the cheese and garlic, and rich from the olive oil. It should have a mellow, earthy tone from the pine nuts. It should be vibrant and fresh tasting owing to the basil. It should be a memorable flavor. Pesto is not a sauce that stands by the sidelines.

Creative ways to use Pesto

These five ideas will fire up your culinary sense of creativity for how to use pesto in your cooking.

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Pesto palmier, anyone? Photo via Flickr member nebulux

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Atop pasta with a sprinkle of a hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano, pesto is a delight. Photo via Flickr member Diekaren

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Baked eggs with pesto wrapped in proscuitto? Breakfast is served. Photo via Flickr member jeffreyww

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Pesto on a greek pizza with feta cheese is a festival of flavor. Photo via Flickr member crd

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Asian fusion, anyone? This Bento box features pesto halibut and ought to win an award for adorable presentation. Photo via Flickr member gamene

Key ingredients:

Pesto only has a few ingredients, which means that every flavor will shine. Here’s a guide to choosing the best ingredients for the job.

Garlic:
Use fresh garlic for the best results in your pesto. Choose garlic that is firm to the touch and without brown spots. Store it in a cool, dark place; garlic can last from a week to more than a month.

Basil:
Use fresh basil, not dried, to make pesto. While flavor is the primary advantage, there’s also a much higher visual appeal to vibrant green basil than to its forest green dried counterpart. There are many different varieties of basil. Genovese basil, which is easy to grow and is often available at grocery stores, is one of the best for making pesto because it yields 7 to 8 cuttings worth of growth, and has a flavor that plays well with the other ingredients in pesto.

Olive oil:
Use a very good quality extra virgin olive oil with a flavor on the milder side. Ideally, its flavor is not so assertive as to overpower the other ingredients, but helps them all work in harmony. An extra virgin olive oil such as Taggiasco, which features olives grown at high altitudes, is a great choice.

Pine nuts:
Pine nuts can be expensive, so purchase in relatively small quantities. Pine nuts can go rancid quickly, so purchase your fresh pine nuts as close as possible to the time that you’re making your pesto. Buy from a reputed retailer with high turnover to ensure that the pine nuts are freshest. Store in the freezer if not using within a few days of purchase.

Cheese:
Splurge on some good cheese for the best pesto. A mix of a hard cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano paired with a milder goat cheese such as Pecorino Sardo is the best of both worlds: it has a sharpness from the hard cheese, but that is softened in a pleasing, creamy way with the more mild sheep’s milk cheese. You can also use Pecorino Romano, but the flavor will be saltier and slightly more “biting”. If these cheeses are not available or not within your budget, you can find a number of substitutions for Parmigiano Reggiano, and substitutes for Pecorino Sardo.

Salt:
I like to use a good quality coarse sea salt to bring out the most flavor in my pesto.

Materials:

What tools do you need to make pesto?

Food processor or blender

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Photo via Flickr member bekathwia

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle or just don’t feel like grinding by hand, you can use a food processor to make pesto. It’s easy, quick, and efficient. You can also perform the tasks of a food processor in this recipe with a better-quality high powered blender.

Mortar & pestle

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Photo via Flickr member sk8geek

Even though it’s more physical work, let me make a case for using a mortar and pestle for your pesto-making. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, it’s a good investment. Far from a one-trick pony, it can be used to make guacamole, as well as to grind ingredients into a paste for sauces or flavorings. For pesto, it really does bring out the flavor of all of the ingredients, and there’s a certain sense of accomplishment that the tactile quality of working with a mortar and pestle lends to the finished product.

Can you replicate a mortar and pestle’s function with a spoon and bowl? Sort of, but don’t expect stellar results. You just won’t have the mobility to grind the same way you would with a mortar and pestle.

How to make pesto

4-6 servings

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Sardo

To make in a mortar and pestle

Add the basil with a dash of coarse sea salt. You won’t so much grind as gently work the basil with the pestle against the sides and bottom of the mortar, shredding it.  You need to gently roll the pestle against the mortar walls, shredding the leaves as you go. When the basil begins to release liquid and it begins to accumulate at the bottom of the mortar, add the pine nuts. Once worked in and crushed, add the two types of cheese and stir until it comes together into a paste. Begin to add the olive oil a bit at a time, working it into the pesto. Once it is thoroughly mixed, taste and adjust the salt to your liking.

To make in a food processor

You don’t want to add too much heat to the pesto ingredients with the whizzing of your food processor’s blades. Avoid excess heat by freezing the removable blade in the freezer for an hour before making your pesto. Instead of the gradual process above, add all of the ingredients at once and pulse until it has come together for a perfect pesto. Scrape the sides of the bowl inside if needed to re-incorporate any flying basil leaves.

Tip: combine the pesto with a small amount of leftover water from cooking your pasta; this will help it adhere better and ensure even coverage.

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Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

If you’re anything like me, you’re already planning your Thanksgiving menu. You probably also know that when you’re cooking for a large group of people, food allergies are going to come up. This Thanksgiving, I know I’m planning on feeding a couple of people who are living the gluten-free lifestyle.

While I’m going to offer a variety of options, both gluten-free as well as the more traditional (corn bread stuffing, I’m looking at you), there was one holiday favorite I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy: green bean casserole.

I have loved green bean casserole since I saw a commercial on TV for the kind made with canned soup and those crispy onions that come in a jar. My mom started making it and I’ve been hooked ever since.

It turns out, that updating it to be both made from whole, fresh ingredients and altering it to be gluten-free was pretty easy. While you can now find creamy canned soups that are gluten-free, I encourage you to make your own sauce. There will be less salt and the flavors will be much richer and more flavorful.

I stuck with the traditional white button mushrooms for this recipe. They have a mild flavor and don’t overwhelm the green beans or cream sauce. However, if wild mushrooms aren’t your thing, by all means use your favorite or a mix as a substitute.

I went with whole milk as the base for my cream sauce because it’s what I normally have on hand. You can definitely use heavy cream or half-and-half if you’d like. Around Thanksgiving, I would go for heavy cream because I can use the leftovers to make fresh whipped cream for pie!

This dish involves making a simple roux which can be made using a fat (like milk or butter) and flour or cornstarch. Cornstarch is always my go-to for a roux, gluten-free or not, because you are able to use less of it to thicken and it will not create or add any unwanted flavor in your sauce.

The only other part of this dish that would normally contain gluten is the fried onions. After doing some research on the best gluten-free coatings to use, I decided that a mix of cornstarch and rice flour would yield the lightest, crispiest coating. You can certainly use whatever gluten-free flour you have on hand. There are a variety of boxed gluten-free white flours available that many cooks are using successfully in fried foods.

Which of your Thanksgiving favorites have you updated to accommodate your guest’s dietary needs?

Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

Fried Onion Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt to taste
enough vegetable oil to fill a large, deep frying pan with 1” of oil

Green Bean Casserole Ingredients

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in half or thirds
1/4 lb white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan or small soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and saute until beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, stir frequently.

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  1. Raise heat to medium. Add mushrooms and olive oil. Cook until mushrooms soften, about 3-4 minutes, stir often.

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  1. Add white wine and bring to a high simmer. Stir frequently until wine is almost entirely reduced.
  2. Add green beans, stir to coat, cook 3-4 minutes. Stir a couple of times.

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  1. Add 1/2 cups milk to the green beans and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into remaining milk with a fork until dissolved.

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  1. When milk is boiling, add milk and cornstarch mixture. Stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute.
  2. Turn off heat and pour mixture into a medium Dutch oven or casserole dish. Cover and place in oven for 30 minutes.

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  1. While your gluten-free green bean casserole is in the oven, make your fried onions.
  2. Heat 1” vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan. Test the oil with one small piece of onion – when it sizzles you’re ready to fry.
  3. Mix cornstarch and rice flour in a shallow bowl or plate.

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  1. Toss onions in mixture until well coated.

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  1. Working in batches, add onions to the oil and fry until just beginning to turn golden. These will fry very quickly, turning from golden to brown in the blink of an eye.

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  1. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Toss in salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside until green beans have been in the oven 30 minutes.

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  1. At the end of 30 minutes, remove green beans from the oven and uncover. Spread crispy onions evenly across the top of the casserole. Return to oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

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  1. Remove from oven and serve alongside your meal or buffet-style with your other Thanksgiving accompaniments.

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The ART and Science of Making Your Customers Spend More Money in Your Restaurant

You own a restaurant. Step one. Step two is most likely getting customers. It is a fine line between being customer focused and being restaurant focused.

It serves you well to make the customer’s first visit spectacular. A flawless first course keeps the customer intrigued. Early positive impressions make them wonder what else could delight their palate, but there is more to the art of encouraging decadence.

If you are looking to get your customers to spend more money, it takes an environment that is just right. Having everything set may make the average customer order another bottle of wine or let their inhibitions down. From the right song to the right descriptions, making a client feel important is not unlike the art of seduction.

Here are tactics honed by menu engineers and consultants (and even color experts) to help you optimize the revenue out of your customers.

1. Keep the dollar signs for your income statements

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Flickr Image, Sarah Corriher, https://flic.kr/p/8VmWE1

Turns out that there is a big difference between $10.99 and 10.99. 10.99 has a less aggressive stance. In the customer’s perspective, it feels less like money. It’s just dinner. Whether you are a high-end restaurant or not, the dropping of the subtle currency marker can make your establishment look fancier.

The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration has researched this point and found that no dollar signs meant that customers spent more on average. The conclusion? No dollar signs for your customer means more dollar signs for you in the long run.

2. Get psychological with your pricing

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Flickr Image, cara fealy choate, https://flic.kr/p/pTEY3

To further add to the point of numbers that matter, we all know that people are more likely to shell out when an item ends in .99 (or 0.95) rather than a big 0. Even though the majority of people round up in their heads, they are still much more likely to spend on an item that is one penny less.

Those copper coins can make a big difference, as outlined by William Poundstone in the book Priceless. According to Poundstone, ending your menu items with a 9 can increase sales by a whopping 24%. Maybe we should start coining the expression a penny spent is a nickel earned.

3. Know the words that sell

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Flickr Image, Greek Twitters, https://flic.kr/p/5YJs3b

What’s trendy today can be retro tomorrow.  Even though your parents have not moved beyond the word “groovy” there are people that are dedicated to the art of customer lingo.

Take Bob Goldin, executive vice president with the market research firm Technomic, who analyzes the words that matter. “Free from” and “healthy” are big ones, but you might want to get on the “gluten free” bandwagon (especially for foods that have been gluten free all along).

There are no federal definitions for buzzwords like “artisan” “sustainable” or “local,” according to Arthur Whitmore, health communications specialist for the Food and Drug Administration. That means they can be easily added to your restaurant menu descriptions, encouraging the gourmet-inclined to try your restaurant.

Buzzwords mean that you will be higher on Twitter feeds, Google searches and in your customer’s preferences.

4. Highlight what you think is your selling feature

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Flickr Image, USA Army Africa, https://flic.kr/p/7jH6Yp

Much like trying to impress your first date with all of your good qualities, you want your menu to be dazzling on the first read. The items that you highlight will be sold more easily. This may mean you put an item that you would like to sell in a separate box, or change the font to make it bold.

Some restaurants like to create separate sections for vegetarian or healthy living items. A small survey conducted by the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. noted that chains that offered “low calorie” items rose in revenue by 5.5% in a 5 year period. Use the lingo and the highlighter and it appears that you are golden.

5. Choose for the customer

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Flickr Image, Amber DeGrace, https://flic.kr/p/ciVALU

According to American psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, having more choices on the menu does not benefit the psychological health of Americans. Make it easier for them; limit their choices.

A study by Bournemouth University found that the optimal number of menu items is 7 to 10 items in fine dining establishments (and even less for the lower end food choices). So, having a novel for a menu may seem like you are giving the customer what he or she wants, but in fact you are just adding to their stress.

6. Get creative with your colors

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Flickr Image, jean-louis Zimmermann, https://flic.kr/p/9iSeBh

Not only is there price psychology, but also color psychology. Kenneth Fehrman wrote a book on it: Color: The Secret Influence. It turns out orange is a color that increases appetite.

Color and feng shui expert Dana Claudat also gives squash-colored yellow the go-ahead. Claudet says that these colors offer “a stronger sense of physical attachment to live and promote more cheerful overall responses to a space.”

As well, greens and browns are optimal restaurant colors, as they encourage people to relax and enjoy themselves. Warm earth tones set the tone in higher end establishments or can make lower budget restaurants look classier.

Just stay away from the reds, unless you are the Golden Arches.

7. Don’t always keep it in English

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Flickr Image by Didriks, https://flic.kr/p/ahpwTn

Having the food appear on the menu in its original language by using an ethnic or geographic marker will make the food appear worldly and exotic. Oxford Experimental Psychologist Charles Spence found that this tweak helped people to see the food as more authentic.

See for yourself:

tomato and mozzarella salad or Caprese?

They’re both the same thing, but one sounds like something that could easily be made at home, while the other sounds like a dish that requires an Italian cooking course.

8. Have your customer experience the food before they even taste it

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Flickr Image, Dave Worley, https://flic.kr/p/662Len

Evocative language doesn’t just belong in 50 Shades of Grey. Find a true voice to describe your dishes. If writing isn’t your forte, hire a writer. The best menu descriptions can induce salivation, making the customer think with their palate rather than their wallet.

Cornell University found that restaurant items that were described beautifully were also ordered more regularly. Reel people into the experience by being as descriptive as possible. The Inn At Little Washington restaurant has on its menu “Carpaccio of Marinated Matsutake Mushrooms Accented With Local Asian Pears.” Even the addition of the word “accented” can make all the difference in the world. If only all of business were that easy to tweak. 

9. Set the mood with the right tunes

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Flickr Image, Emi Yanez, https://flic.kr/p/mqKJa

The choice of music not only makes your workday go by faster, but it also can affect how long your customers spend in your restaurant. A study done by Clare Caldwell at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland found that slower tempo sounds encouraged people to stay longer at restaurants. Customers will also under-estimate the time they spend in the restaurant and spend more time if they are listening to relaxing music.

Leave those techno beats in the kitchen. If you must have something higher tempo, think about building a playlist with songs with food references. That’s Amore by Dean Martin comes to mind. 

10. Incorporate technology into the experience

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Flickr Image, brownpau, https://flic.kr/p/dMF6zH 

Admit it: you are probably reading this on a Smartphone, tablet or laptop. Even your grandmother has a Facebook account. We can no longer deny it: we live in a hyperconnected world. Even so, customers are seeking more platforms for their wired lives.

Wireless payment and iPad menus are a big draw for some people, as the National Restaurant Association predicted a surge of interest in these areas. People also tend to like restaurants with fast response times for reservation, including text messaging. It turns out being a slave to your phone is great for business.

11. Don’t neglect the importance of smell 

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Flickr Image, Ian Sane, https://flic.kr/p/dK4wdW

Chances are that there will be a lot of scents mingling in the air when your customers walk into the door. You would assume that people would be drawn to the obvious ones: onions simmering in butter, the smell of freshly baked bread or a pie steaming hot from the oven. 

Interestingly, the scent that made people eat more in restaurants was not even food related. A small study done by Gueguen and Petr found that (of all things) the scent of lavender led to a 20% increase in spending at restaurants. Perhaps the soporific effect helps people to let their guard down. Time to invest in a diffuser (at the very least, in the bathrooms!). 

12. Two portion sizes are better than one

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Flickr Image, Vladislav Bezrukov, https://flic.kr/p/6aUpeA

Offering two sizes, a smaller and a larger portion size, will convince many restaurant patrons that they are getting a good deal, because, hey, it’s cheaper. This is known as bracketing. This under-utilized technique may get more people ordering an appetizer, a side dish, or something to take home.

People love the illusion of saving, and it costs you less money in raw materials to make the smaller portion. Everyone wins.

Conclusion

People go to restaurants for many reasons, one of which is to celebrate (even if they are celebrating just getting through another workday). By making your customers as relaxed and as happy as possible, you will be doing more (and better) business.

Celebration all around. Is it time to break out the champagne yet.

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Superfood Seed: How to Make Perfect Quinoa

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For a long time, I pronounced quinoa “quinn-oh-uh”. I was very wrong, and either other people didn’t know either, or they just never took the time to correct me. Even if I didn’t know how to say the word, I knew I liked the stuff: lightly nutty, surprisingly satisfying, with echoes of various cereal grains, while retaining its own distinct personality. There’s nothing quite like quinoa.

Well, in case you’re wondering, the proper pronunciation is “keen-wa”–not very intuitive! But even if you do know that, there are probably a few things you don’t know about quinoa.

  1. What is quinoa, exactly? In spite of a popularly held opinion, it’s actually not a grain. It comes from a grain–a species of goosefoot, which is a grain grown primarily for its seeds.
  2. Even though it’s not a grain, you can pretty much treat it like one in your cooking. While quinoa is usually considered to be a whole grain, it is actually a seed, but can be prepared like whole grains such as rice or barley.
  3. There are over 120 different varieties of quinoa. While the seeds are the most popular version, flakes and flour made from quinoa are increasingly popular.
  4. It’s very, very old. It was grown in the Andes as long as 4,000 years ago. The Inca held the crop as sacred, and the sowing of the first seeds of the season was a red letter day on their calendar. Warriors are even said to have fueled up with quinoa balls before long marches to battle.
  5. It almost went extinct. Conquistadors even forbade its cultivation for a time, scorning it as “farmer food”. Luckily, the tradition did not die entirely. The conquistadors would probably be quite surprised to learn that today, quinoa is considered a gourmet food!

What makes it so healthy?

True story: the year 2013 was dubbed the “International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations, owing to its high level of nutrition and potential to contribute to health and food security internationally.

This award was not arbitrary: cooked quinoa provides substantial sustenance. Among its many selling points:

  • It contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
  • It contains double the fiber of most other grains.
  • It is rich in iron, which is vital for keeping red blood cells healthy.
  • It is rich in manganese, bone production, blood sugar control, and protection against free radicals.
  • It is a low glycemic index food, meaning that it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar and will give you an even, long-lasting energy.
  • Quinoa is a gluten-free grain. This means it’s appropriate for gluten-free diets as well as vegan diets. Given the rise in popularity of these healthier ways of eating, it’s no wonder that quinoa is having its moment as a superfood.

In language you can easily digest? This is a food that will fill you up, give you long-lasting energy, and benefit your body in many ways.

How is quinoa used?

Quinoa is an unbelievably versatile seed. It can be used as a side dish or as part of a main dish, as a breakfast cereal or even in sweets. Here are five creative ideas for how to use quinoa:

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Photo via CakeSpy

 

Top your quinoa with yogurt, fruit, and nuts for a morning cereal.

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Photo via Flickr member sweetonveg

Pair cooked quinoa with sautéed mushrooms and kale for a hearty and healthy meal.

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Photo via Flickr member vegateam

Stuff peppers with quinoa and vegetables for an appetizer or light dinner.

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Photo via Flickr member totalnoms

Combine quinoa with cheese and pan-fry for a savory vegetarian dish.

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Photo via flickr member jamieanne

The secret ingredient in these cookies? Quinoa! Date-sweetened quinoa cookies are a sweet treat indeed.

Things you need to know about quinoa

Before you cook quinoa, you should know some important things about this grain.

  1. You need to wash it before cooking.
    It is absolutely vital that you thoroughly wash your quinoa before cooking. It might sound fussy, but please, don’t skip this step. Why? Quinoa contains something called saponin. Saponins are occurring chemical compounds present in a number of specimens of plant and sea life. Among other things, they act as a natural repellent. While that is good for keeping away bugs and animals when the grain grows, the saponin can impart a bitter taste to cooked quinoa, so be sure to wash until the water runs clear. Don’t soak the quinoa to clean it, as this may actually help the saponin deposit itself in the seed.
  2. There will be natural variations in coloring.
    There are actually 120 different types of quinoa. This will cover many variations in color and subtle size difference. The most commonly sold versions are white or ivory quinoa, red quinoa, and black quinoa. Black quinoa in particular is notably lower in carbohydrates and tends to cook crunchier.
  3. The ratio of water to quinoa matters
    There are different schools of thought about how much water should be used in ratio to the amount of quinoa. I find that the following is a good rule of thumb:If you are pretty much eating the quinoa as-is, perhaps mixing it with nuts and brown sugar for breakfast or sprinkling on top of a salad, use a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa.If you are going to use the quinoa as a component of a recipe that will be cooked further, such as a stir-fry, used a ratio of 1:1 water to quinoa. This will keep the quinoa “al dente” and will allow for absorption of more moisture and flavor during further cooking.

How to store quinoa

Uncooked quinoa: Be warned, quinoa’s lifespan is not infinite. If not properly stored, it can go rancid.  For your safety and for best flavor results, store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container for up to three months (up to six months in the fridge or freezer).
Cooked quinoa: First, let your cooked quinoa cool to room temperature. Place in an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.  

How to cook quinoa

This is an easy to master method of cooking quinoa that will reap you many delicious benefits.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 cups water (see notes above)
  • pinch salt

Step 1: Wash the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer. Run under cold water and stir once or twice. This will clean the quinoa of any possible impurities and the bitter taste of saponin.

Step 2: Place the cleaned quinoa, 2 cups water, and salt, in a medium saucepan (you want a healthy amount of clearance above the liquid so it has room to bubble without boiling over). Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Once it has reached the boiling point, reduce the heat to low-medium (the boiling will reduce to a simmer).

Step 3: Cover and let simmer until the water has been absorbed by the grains. If you are using a lower ratio of water to quinoa, this can take as little as 8 minutes. If you’re using the full 2 cups, it can take 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid (you may want to lift it using an oven mitt, as steam will rise once you lift it), and let the quinoa chill out in the pan for 5 minutes (this should absorb any remaining liquid).

Step 4: Fluff with a fork. You’ll be amazed at how really fluffy it becomes! Your quinoa is ready to serve.

Creative variations

Once you’ve mastered the simple art of cooking quinoa, you can start to have some fun with it. Here are some variations that can add flavor and intrigue to the recipe:

Change up the liquid – You don’t have to stick with just water to cook your quinoa. For breakfast, I like to use part milk or coconut milk to give it a rich, creamy flavor. If I am making a savory dish, it can be quite pleasant to cook the quinoa in a vegetable or meat broth.

Add a little butter – Simply adding a tablespoon of butter at the same time you fluff the quinoa works wonders: it will melt almost instantly in the residual heat, and will lend a richness and luxuriant flavor to your quinoa.

Toast your cooked quinoa – Place the quinoa in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned and toasted. It makes a fantastic garnish for salads or vegetable dishes.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Article by Jessie Oleson Moore

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Back to Fundamentals: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Deconstructed

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Chewy. Cakey. Crisp. Soft. Gooey. Which is the chocolate chip cookie of your dreams?

When I was young, I used to like chocolate chip cookies, but without the chips. I would painstakingly pick out the chips (no small feat for a toddler) and enjoy my cookie. One day, my sister made me a batch without chips. But this wasn’t right either: turns out I liked the flavor that the chips lent the batter, just not the texture of the little chocolate lumps in the cookies.

As I got older, my tastes matured. Today, my ideal cookie is mostly chewy, with the slightest touch of crispness on the edges, but soft throughout, with extra salt and slightly fewer chips than most recipes call for.

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Recipe Inspiration: Smoky Baked Salmon with Avocado-Corn Salsa

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I love this salsa. It reminds me of vacations in lake cottages full of white wine and laughter. It’s so simple to make for a group and it always impresses.

This particular avocado-corn salsa was born this summer over a long weekend in Maine. I knew it was going to become a staple in my weeknight meal rotation after returning home. It’s easy to make and goes well with so many foods.

The avocado-corn salsa happens to be particularly delicious with fish. Salmon is one of my favorites. It’s flavorful, bold in color, and quite good for you.

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Chefworks Unveils V1.1 of Its Dress The Chef© Virtual Dressing Room

- Upgraded Application Includes the Addition of the Company’s Entire Women’s Culinary Apparel Collection -

San Diego (September xxxxx, 2014) – Chef Works, the world’s leading provider of culinary apparel for professionals and home cooks alike, today announced the immediate availability of V1.1 of its Dress the Chef© Virtual Dressing Room, an interactive application that allows customers to instantly visualize various styles and color ways available when selecting their culinary and hospitality uniforms.

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Creating the Perfect Tasting Menu

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Tasting menus, also known as a “prix fixe” menu, were once only found in fine restaurants, and while less pricy than eating from the regular menu, still pricy.

With many types of restaurants opening up all over the country, both upscale and casual, chef’s everywhere want to give customers a chance to try a sampling of their best dishes. These days you’ll find tasting menus even in restaurants without a white chef coat in sight. In fact, in many larger cities, there are organizations that will host what is known as “restaurant week,” in which diners can visit a variety of restaurants within the city and try some of what they have to offer at a reduced price.

So, exactly what is a tasting menu? Is it something you should consider adding to your restaurant? It just might be the way to get more customers in the door, but you have to know how to do it well. Read on to learn more about this new restaurant trend and whether or not it may be for you.

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Do You Need a Kid’s Menu? (And How to Create the Perfect One)

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With people dining out in droves, you’ve undoubtedly seen children in restaurants everywhere. As a restaurant owner, it pays to cater to today’s children, as they are the restaurant diners of the future. The easiest way to make kids (and their parents) feel at home is to have a kid’s menu. 

If you own an independent restaurant, you may be wondering if you need a kid’s menu if you don’t already have one. A traditional kid’s menu is full of foods like chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, or hot dogs, but if this type of food doesn’t fit with your menu, it my be difficult to add these types of foods on, especially if you don’t get a lot of families in your place. You may want to consider it, however.

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Using Locally Sourced Meat and Agricultural Products

Serving locally sourced products has become trendy as individuals and business owners become increasingly concerned with the health of patrons, the agriculture consumed, and the world they both live in. Read on to learn more about the benefits of using locally sourced products.

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