Review written & photographed by Jordan A.R.
The Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook (published by Skyhorse Publishing, $17.95 USD) is written by Wendy Polisi, creator of the popular website CookingQuinoa.net. This book is a collection of over two hundred of Wendy’s quinoa-inspired recipes, and includes nutritional information for each dish as well as tips on preparation and ingredient substitutions. The recipes cover a wide spectrum of dietary genres, including vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free. There are also kid specific recipes, as well as suggested meals to serve on busy weeknights when you’re short on time but still want to serve something healthy.
I have to admit that I found the photography completely uninspiring. It is said that we eat with our eyes, and the same follows true with cooking: we want to cook what looks good to eat. Obviously publishers don’t have unlimited budgets and high caliber food photography is not cheap, but this book would have really benefited from some more consideration in terms of its overall visual appeal.
Some of the other issues I have with the book are in regards to basic edits. For example; I found the suggested cook times and temperatures not only to be inaccurate but also inconsistent with what is listed online. There were even instances where itemized ingredients were nowhere to be found in the recipe itself, while more commonsense ingredient additions were excluded. After double-checking the website I found the same recipes online without errors.
If you’re interested in a beautiful recipe book about quinoa, something like Quinoa 365 deserves purchase. But if all you want are some quick, simple recipes using this South American staple, check out Wendy’s website. Honestly, after testing this cookbook and closely examining her website I cannot help but feel that what’s online is a far superior resource for cooks.
Quinoa Chocolate Bars
Rating: 3 out of 5 (consider this a jumping off point for further inspiration)
The Test: This recipe is a quick solution to satisfying your sweet tooth. Essentially you pop quinoa like popcorn, mix it with almonds, chocolate and a pinch of salt, and you’re done. Problem: one method of doing the quinoa says to toast it until brown while the other says to “pop” the quinoa (presumably with a noticeable popcorn appearance). Method one led to hard, undesirable quinoa. Method two seems to have eluded me. Also, coconut oil is listed as an ingredient yet fails to make an appearance in the directions. (Later I found the recipe online and noticed that the coconut oil was meant to be used for popping the quinoa. In the book it says olive oil).
The Results: By this point I realized the recipe was going to be a fail so I ended up winging it the rest of the way, adding some white chocolate, dried sour cherries, and more nuts. The quinoa was pretty underwhelming considering it was the star ingredient, but I really enjoyed the pinch of salt which detracted from the sweetness in a nice way without being too noticeable. This recipe has value as a base for your own creativity, but if followed precisely I think this might have been a bust.
RATING: 4 out of 5 (perfect heat, great flavour)
The Test: Whack some good-for-you ingredients in a food processor, form them into patties and fry them in a pan, top with Greek yoghurt. Done and done.
The accompanying photo shows this dish with cilantro but the recipe does not specify using this ingredient. This is a common occurrence in the world of cookbooks, when food styling dictates the addition or omission of ingredients for the sake of visual appeal. But I ended up following the photo (and my culinary instincts) and added some cilantro.
Because the patties turned into crumbs while cooking in the pan, I ended up switching to a hot grill that crisped them up nicely with a lot less effort.
The Results: This dish turned out to be pretty good! The cayenne gave a perfect amount of heat and the falafels went wonderfully with the Greek yoghurt. The patties were still quite crumbly, and I don’t know if it was something I did wrong or if they would have benefited from the use of eggs or some other binding ingredient? Either way the flavour of these falafels was fantastic.
Vegetable & Quinoa Pot Pie
Rating: 1 out of 5 (good idea, bad execution)
The Test: Making a pot pie with some frozen vegetables and seven sheets of phyllo dough as the crust sounds simple, right? It is simple. The dish came together easily and quickly, but unfortunately the results were catastrophic.
The Results: If I had blindly followed the directions to this recipe I would have had a culinary disaster on my hands. Come on – 35 minutes at 450 F degrees when baking phyllo?! I must admit that I was quite reluctant to replace traditional puff pastry with the thin sheets of phyllo dough in the first place, but I definitely didn’t want to bake it until charred.
No seasoning. Frozen vegetables. With so many interesting vegetable choices available for using in a pot pie, suggesting something as generic as frozen corn and peas in a cookbook is just plain insulting.
By the time this dish made it to the table I had made so many changes in order to rescue this meal it bore zero resemblance to the original. I do like the idea of using quinoa in a pot pie. But that’s pretty much all I liked about this recipe.