Against the Grain

The very first time I tasted quinoa was out of a gigantic pre-made salad box from Costco. While tasting it I was expecting great returns, keeping in mind all the edifying facts I had heard about it all that time, almost expecting magic – well, almost!

My husband, who rarely raves about anything unless it’s really worthy, had spoken endlessly about it. I think he was equally influenced by Runners World. ‘It’s one of the ancient grains from the Mayan dynasty’, ‘A Super Grain’ I heard him say. ‘Mayan Dynasty,’ ‘ancient grain’, ‘super grain’ – it all sounded so distinguished. So there I was staring at the giant Costco-sized quinoa salad and thinking, “gross”. Drenched in olive oil and super tart lime juice, mixed with soggy tomatoes, feta and parsley; it made me hate the grains. End of story. No posy.

Well, not quite.

Late one recent night while quite trying to get back to sleep, I was browsing the TasteSpotting website. (It used to be that watching boring late night telly or browsing superficial Facebook was what it took to lull me back to sleep, but not since I became a food blogger.) There it was:  quinoa, again. Cakes, puddings, pilaf, patties, salad, smoothies, dessert … name it and it was there, all made with quinoa. Not sure if I felt bullied by quinoa lovers or was being pulled in by the herd mentality, but I did come home with a bag of quinoa grains from the grocery the next day. The dry grains were round and delicate looking, almost like tiny beads and cooking instructions were the same as rice – it looked more promising than just an ‘ancient super grain’.

I love the versatility of this grain. I love how it can carry flavours, especially from the vantage point of my Indian palette.  It’s nutty yet subtle.  I love the fact that it is a ‘super grain’ in addition to a number of other more valuable attributes credited to it. I seem to find myself hopping on the quinoa bandwagon.



  • Cooked Quinoa: 2 cups
  • Cherry Tomatoes: 1/4 cup halved (extra few for garnishing)
  • Ginger: 1/2 inch, very finely diced
  • Shallots: 2 small thinly sliced
  • Green peas: 4 tbsp
  • Raisins or dried Cranberries: 4 tbsp
  • Paprika: 1/4 tp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Lime: 1/2 juiced
  • Avocado OIl: 3 tbsp
  • Fresh Coriander Leaf or Mint: 1/4 cup chopped and a few for garnish (I used coriander)


  • Heat oil, add the whole cumin seeds. When the seeds start to bubble up add the sliced shallots and fry for a min on low heat.
  • Add the ginger and let cook on low heat for another minute. The shallots will turn translucent.
  • Add the other dry spices, peas and raisins and stir to combine and cook for another few minutes.
  • Add the halved tomatoes and fresh coriander leaves  and toss in the spice mixture, then add the cooked quinoa and mix well.
  • Take off heat and add the lime juice, season with salt.
  • Serve warm.


32 thoughts on “Against the Grain

    • Just put a big honking piece of steak on to of the quinoa…it’ll be gone in 30 secs! Given he likes steak, that is. 🙂
      I do have a few other recipes and i’m still experimenting, so there may be something in the future both of you may fancy.
      Good luck!

      • My husband would eat steak on ice cream, so yeah, good idea. Although I have seen him meticulously pick tiny granules of quinoa off other food before he takes a mouthful. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Thanks!!

  1. Debjani, it WAS through Debi that I saw your blog a few days ago – he’d posted a link of it on his FB page. So, the ‘beroshik’ is sneakily proud of your beautiful blog methinks 🙂 Your photography is gorgeous, and your words have a very come-sit-with-us-and-eat kind of warmth which i love 🙂

    • Thank you much for the compliments. writing is not my strong point, but I have gotten braver since i started this. Tons and tons of room for improvement. 🙂 And photography is just too much fun! In the mean time, I am already looking forward to reading your next post!
      I am still pleasantly ‘alarmed’ at my brothers sharing of my blog page. He is sneaky, no doubt. Thanks to you, I would have never known.

  2. I don’t prepare enough with quinoa; and should. I love every single ingredient in this recipe. Your pictures looks beautiful! And the entire salad looks absolutely delicious!

  3. Believe it or not, I’m yet to jump on the quinoa loving train too. Having tried the red variety more than a few times, I’ve got to say my staples are rice in general, noodles, wild etc. Maybe it’s the Chinese part of me, but I must say that your efforts in valiantly recreating a better version of this salad look truly delicious!

  4. I’ve had that same feeling of quinoa peer pressure from other quinoa-obsessed food-lovers! I have some in my pantry and cook with it occasionally, but it just hasn’t made its way into my regular go-to rotation (vs. rice), yet… Maybe I just haven’t found the right way to dress it up yet! This recipe seems like it’d be a great place to start. 🙂

    • I love rice and I can’t imagine quinoa taking over, I think I’d die without rice! I have been experimenting with it and I must say, it’s a lot friendlier than I thought it was. It needs a lot of flavouring up though!

      • Agreed! Rice is superior, and quinoa needs flavoring up… I just need to start thinking of it as its own unique thing rather than a rice substitute!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s