Buying in Bulk, White vs. Red vs. Black Quinoa, and a Recipe for Savory Red Lentil and Quinoa Bolognese

April 14th, 2015 12:02 pm by Kelly Garbato

Red and Yellow Quinoa, Lago Titicaca

Red and Yellow Quinoa, Lago Titicaca; CC image via twiga_269 on Flickr.
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You guys know how much I love ye ole bulk food stores, right? Back when I started that “frugal vegans” series a few VeganMoFos ago (which sadly turned out to be fairly short-lived, since I exhausted all my ideas in under a month), buying in bulk was one of my top/most popular tips.

Whether you’re prepping for the apocalypse or just trying to save some money, buying in bulk can be a great option. Don’t have an underground bunker in which to store all those tubs of extra goodies? Pair up with a friend or two and split your haul!

So when Alexa from IFS Bulk got in touch, I jumped at the chance to try out some of their products and create a few original recipes.* With everything from black chia seeds to dried currants and mammoth pecan halves (my favorite!) to choose from, it was hard to whittle it down. In the end, I went with red quinoa and hazelnut flour. We’ll discuss the hazelnut flour another day (spoiler alert: there will be vegan Nutella!); today it’s all about the quinoa.

Prior to this, I wasn’t even aware that quinoa came in different colors – red and black in addition to the more popular white. What’s the difference?, you might be asking. Good question! I wanted to know too, so I did a little research, and here’s what I found.

Tri-Colour Quinoa

Tri-Colour Quinoa; CC image via avlxyz on Flickr.
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The general consensus is that red and black quinoa hold their shape better than the white (or ivory) variety, making them better suited for salads. White quinoa, as I’ve already learned, is amazing when formed into veggie patties. Both red and black quinoa keep their color after cooking, which makes for a rather striking presentation; they also need to cook a little longer (up to five minutes) than white quinoa. Additionally, black quinoa reportedly has a sweeter, earthier flavor than its ivory cousin.

The optimal water-to-quinoa ratio seems to vary anywhere from 2:1 to 1:1; your best bet, I’ve found, is to use one cup of water per cup of quinoa, and then add extra as needed. One cup of dry quinoa yields about three cups cooked, and one cup of quinoa will cook in about 15-20 minutes. You can tell it’s done when the seed pops open, reveling the germ.

During my experimentation, however, I’ve found that many of the seeds won’t fully open until the next day, e.g., after the leftovers have marinated in liquid overnight. Since this is my first time cooking with red quinoa, I can’t tell whether it’s just a weird quirk with the batch I received; but if you encounter a similar issue, just let the dish sit overnight and it’ll most likely resolve itself. In the recipe I’ve included below, the concentration of quinoa is low enough that it doesn’t have an appreciable impact on the dish either way. As long as the quinoa is soft and chewy, you’re good to go.

My first thought, as per usual, was to try red quinoa in pasta. (Surprise!) In particular, Bolognese sauce, which is a slowly cooked sauce known for its thick, meaty texture. The sauce is almost entirely made of meat, with just a minimal amount of tomatoes to tie it all together.

A popular vegan version of Bolognese sauce uses red lentils to approximate the hearty, meaty feeling of Bolognese sauce.

2015-03-30 - Red Quinoa Bolognese - 0008 [flickr]

The original Red Quinoa Bolognese, with seeds like whoah.
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This recipe underwent several variations before I got it just right. Initially I made the mistake of eliminating the red lentils entirely in favor of red quinoa; while the finished sauce was indeed delicious, the small quinoa seeds failed to impart a meaty feeling. Plus the sauce was hella messy: every time I wound the angel hair around my fork, quinoa went flying everywhere. Looking back, I think this version would have worked much better if served with a small pasta, such as bow ties, medium-sized shells, and the like. Call it Red Quinoa Bolognese with a pasta salad spin!

Ultimately I found that a 50-50 blend of red lentils and quinoa works best. I also added diced mushrooms for an extra level of meaty goodness, as well as red wine and red peppers for a sweet and extra-savory flavor; bonus points if you have roasted red peppers on hand! And the Kalamata olives? They are a must!

 

2015-04-03 - Red Lentil & Quinoa Bolognese - 0010 [flickr]

Savory Red-Red-Red Lentil and Quinoa Bolognese
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Savory Red-Red-Red Lentil and Quinoa Bolognese

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons minced garlic
8 ounces mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, halved or quartered
15 ounces diced canned tomatoes (and their juices)
2 cups vegan vegetable or beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 red pepper (fresh or roasted), diced
1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed

1 pound pasta, cooked according to the directions on the package

2015-04-03 - Red Lentil & Quinoa Bolognese - 0002 [flickr]

Just the sauce, please.
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Directions

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the diced onions and cook for about five minutes, or until nearly translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another five minutes. Wash and dice the mushrooms; remember that these will shrink significantly during cooking, so cut into generous, meaty pieces. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook on medium until lightly browned.

2. Stir in the red wine, basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, for five to ten minutes, or until much of the alcohol has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and Kalamata olives and stir well.

3. In a large glass measuring cup, combine 2 cups hot water with vegetable/beef powder or bouillon (if necessary) and 2 tablespoons tomato paste; whisk well. Pour the stock into the skillet and mix well. Add the red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces, and the red lentils. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer, anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. (I like to simmer my sauce for a while; not only does it bring out the flavors, but I like my tomatoes super-tender.)

4. About a half hour before serving, add the red quinoa to the skillet. Be sure to rinse it well first, to get rid of the bitter taste. Increase the heat to medium-high and cover, stirring every five minutes or so. Add more water (and additional spices to taste) if necessary. The quinoa should be done in 15 to 20 minutes; you’ll know it’s done when the quinoa becomes soft and the seed pops open, revealing the germ of the kernel.

5. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for ten minutes. Serve with one pound pasta.

2015-04-03 - Red Lentil & Quinoa Bolognese - 0007 [flickr]

This post is making me hungry!
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Suggested variation: Omit the red lentils and double the red quinoa to one cup. Serve on top of a small pasta, such as bow tie or medium-sized shells, for a sort of Red Quinoa Bolognese/pasta salad mashup.

 

* Disclaimer: I received a free bag of quinoa from IFS Bulk in order to share my opinion on the product.

Additionally, all of IFS Bulk’s products come with the following disclaimer: PRODUCED ON SHARED EQUIPMENT THAT ALSO PROCESSES PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, SOY, MILK, EGGS AND WHEAT. (They offer several non-vegan items, such as snack mixes containing milk chocolate, yogurt, etc., which I’m assuming is the reason for the warning.)

I’ve encountered a variety of opinions in the vegan community re: shared equipment. Personally, I’m of the view that food processed on shared equipment is okay, since the likelihood that it actually contains even trace amounts of animal products is infinitesimal. The warning is primarily meant for those with severe food allergies. In fact, I’m allergic to galactose – milk sugar – and have never suffered an adverse reaction from consuming food processed on shared equipment. So. Make of that what you will.

 

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