Relationships are like cooking. Just as recipes often require staple ingredients, so too are relationships built on certain foundational elements. But, beyond the basics, the thrill of cooking resides for me in the unexpected combination of ingredients. The way a sprinkling of cayenne pepper intensifies chocolate with its smoky spice.
Charles and I share many ingredients between us: a love of writing and cooking (and a sometimes bossy attitude in the kitchen!), a creative eye, an interest in obscure documentaries, the desire to wander new cities by foot, and the legal profession. And while I cherish our similarities, my life has been enriched by our unique ingredients. Charles was raised Jewish in New Orleans and with several siblings, whereas I grew up in Washington, D.C. as an only child from an Irish Catholic family. Together, we’ve incorporated these traditions, yielding a flavor that is complex, new, and wonderful.
Last March, we tried our hand at hamantaschen in honor of Purim. In December, amidst law school final exams, I enjoyed the warm, cider-infused doughnuts and nutella-filled sufganiyot that Charles shared with me. From me, Charles received a hand-felted stocking to hold his holiday goodies. And this week, we’ve attended a Seder and hand-dyed eggs to celebrate both Passover and Easter.
Passover has also given me an opportunity to experiment with ingredients and recipes. Knowing how much Charles enjoys his morning oatmeal, I sought a suitable substitute, and found one in quinoa. Though often described as a grain, quinoa is a species of goosefoot and is a close relative of beets and spinach. Unlike true grains, which are derived from grasses, it’s properly considered a pseudo-grain. But, with a slightly nutty taste and a texture reminiscent of cous cous, quinoa is a wonderful grain substitute in sweet and savory dishes. With these properties in mind, “quinoa-meal” was born.
PREP TIME: 5 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: Serves 2 to 3
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 cup quinoa
1 medium, very ripe banana
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon light coconut milk
1 Pinch of Kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Sweetened, shredded coconut (to taste)
Slivered almonds (to taste)
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. In a medium pot on medium-high heat, combine quinoa, water, coconut milk, milk, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. I used 1% milk, but any variety (including soymilk or almond milk) would work. Stir ingredients to incorporate.
2. Chop banana into thin slices and add to the pot, stirring to combine. As the mixture heats, the banana will break down and blend entirely into the quinoa, infusing it with a subtle sweetness without added sugar. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent quinoa from sticking.
3. Bring quinoa mixture to a full, rolling boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover pot. Simmer quinoa until the liquid is mostly absorbed (approx. 12-15 minutes). Remove from heat, and discard the cinnamon stick. Before discarding the vanilla bean halves, carefully run the tip of a small knife down the length of the beans to remove any remaining vanilla caviar.
4. Add toppings of your choice to quinoa-meal. To accompany the tropical banana and coconut flavors, I toasted coconut and slivered almonds in a pan until golden and sprinkled them on top. Enjoy your quinoa-meal warm!
Note: If you prepare quinoa-meal in advance and wish to reheat it, add a few tbsp of milk as you reheat to prevent the quinoa from drying out.