Quinoa con Queso

One of my favorite foods is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a grain-like seed native of South America. It’s a lot like couscous, but nuttier in flavor, and smoother on the tongue. It’s also high in protein and completely gluten-free. You can make a pilaf with it, or use it for stuffing, or just eat it plain. I recently stumbled upon a recipe for quinoa with queso fresco in this book, and then found many other variations online. As I played around and experimented with this recipe I had two revelations. The first is that quinoa tastes great with milk poured over it. The second is quinoa tastes great with cheese (queso).

Who knew?

If you’ve never had quinoa, I urge you to try it. It’s incredibly easy to make. If you like quinoa, but have never had it with milk or cheese, trust me, this is good. Here we are using queso fresco, a Mexican fresh farmers cheese, but you could also use Cotija, feta, or mozzarella. You can keep it simple with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cheese, or dress it up with zucchini, roasted chiles, or potatoes.

  • Prep: 10 minutes
  • Cook: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4.

If you want, you can add more vegetables up front to this dish, for example, sauté some chopped zucchini along with the onions. And/or serve with new potatoes, either chopped and mixed in (cooked of course), or served alongside.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 large fresh tomato, cored, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped large green chile, either Anaheim or Poblano (optional)*
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh, finely chopped)
  • 1/4 pound (4 ounces) fresh farmer's cheese, or queso fresco, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup milk
  • Fresh basil, cilantro, or chives for garnish (optional)

*See How to roast chile peppers over a gas flame.

Method

1 Put 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

2 While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more. Add the chopped tomato, about 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, dried oregano, and tomato paste. Add chopped green chiles (cooked) if using. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well combined. Let cook until the tomatoes have cooked through and the sauce has cooked down a bit. Then stir in the cheese. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.

3 Stir 1 cup of milk into the now cooked quinoa. Serve the quinoa in bowls and top with sauce. Garnish with chopped basil, parsley, cilantro, or chives.

Main Ingredients

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