30 Days of Summer at Modern Times Coffeehouse: Day 9

I admit that I never had tasted quinoa until I started working in the kitchen of Modern Times Coffeehouse. I had seen it at the bulk section at the natural market and dismissed it as tasteless grain that you needed to cover up with salty, oily dressing and a ton of spices to make it taste interesting. However, after tasting its unique flavor and al dente texture (when cooked properly), and then learning about its "superfood" powers and ancient origins, I was hooked.

There has been a lot of coverage of quinoa in the past few years. Since the demand and prices for it has increased in its native Bolivia, farmers there have struggled to keep up with the production demand and prices have spiked on the global market. There is some conflicting information out there, but by and large, it seems like a good thing that farmers there are able to receive more money for their crops.

We cook our quinoa in a commercial sized rice steamer, fluff it in a big bowl, and toss it with a very small amount of oil and vinegar. If you add to much dressing, especially when it it still too warm, it will absorb it right away and then become mushy and oily. Our add-ins are carrots, sundried tomatoes, and cashews. Quinoa salad combinations are endless. Try it with feta cheese, cucumbers, and red peppers with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Or hardboiled eggs, tuna, capers, and anchovy. What about with spinach, enoki mushrooms, scallions, rice vinegar and sesame oil? Quinoa is also lovely to eat for breakfast-- cook it the night before, then warm it in the microwave (or bring to room temperature) and pour hot milk over. Add honey and handful of nuts and fresh fruit. Better than gummy oatmeal :)

Our quinoa salad is our best selling salad. Most people order it either as a whole meal (yes, it's that filling) or as a combo, adding a half of a sandwich, soup, or another salad. Some people have gotten creative and get a scoop of white bean salad or tuna salad on top. We are happy to pack up a quinoa salad to take to go as well, it keeps well a day or two and makes a great lunch or picnic food. 

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