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Grain-Off: Farro vs. Quinoa

Quinoa is probably the hottest thing on the hip and trendy grain scene right now.  Full of protein, easy to cook, and even those with celiac disease can eat it.  Plus, it has those adorable little tails.  What’s not to like?

Well, I don’t eat quinoa.  Why?  Because it tried to kill me.

Perhaps that’s overstating the issue a bit, but I say when something makes you double over in pain while you’re waiting in line at the DMV, that amounts to something at least as bad as attempted murder.

Here’s the thing about quinoa:  It’s great to grow, because birds won’t eat it.  Did it try to kill them, too?  No, they’re just smarter than me, and they know that quinoa is coated with saponin:  a mild eye, respiratory, and (wait for it!) lower gastrointestinal irritant.  Saponin also tastes bitter, which is why it is common knowledge that you must rinse your quinoa many times before cooking it.

I will never get tired of showing pictures of this awesome salad dressing shaker.

The taste never bothered me, though, so I would sort of haphazardly dandle my quinoa under the faucet for a few seconds before tossing it into a pot, if I bothered to rinse it at all.  Then, I started having trouble sleeping every time we’d have quinoa for dinner.  THEN, I made quinoa muffins for breakfast one morning, and THEN I went to the DMV.  And then quinoa tried to kill me.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll show you my new driver’s license photo.  My face is the face of death.

So, without further preamble, I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend, farro.  It’s not only the world’s oldest cultivated grain and a great source of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates; but it has never, not ONCE, attempted to end my life.  My attorney was a huge fan of quinoa, so it was important to pick a pretty awesome grain to replace it in our diets.  Farro has fit the bill nicely.

This salad features my buddy farro, and also the marvelous beet, previously lauded on Forkful here and here.

Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Watercress, and Poppy Seed Dressing

From Cooking Light, September 2010

Serves 4

  • 2 bunches small beets, trimmed
  • 2/3 cup uncooked farro
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 3 cups trimmed watercress
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) crumbled goat cheese (I used chevre)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Wrap beets in foil.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Cool, peel, and thinly slice.

Place farro and 3 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes, or until farro is tender.  Drain and cool.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. salt.

Arrange 1 1/2 cups watercress on a serving platter.  Top with half of farro, 1/4 cup onion, and half of sliced beets.  Repeat layers, and sprinkle top with cheese.

Combine remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, vinegar, and remaining ingredients.  Stir well with a whisk.  Drizzle vinegar mixture evenly over salad.

Rest easy.

Anyone else every had a run-in with Killer Quinoa?  What’s your favorite grain?

10 Responses to Grain-Off: Farro vs. Quinoa

  1. I have been lackadaisical about rinsing my quinoa in the past. NO MORE.

    But, PS, watercress has tried to kill me with its spicy spice of spiciness. Can I sub arugula?

  2. Sweet heavens, Lindsay darling, of course you can sub arugula! Don’t you remember that subbing ingredients makes you cool?

    But yes, be diligent with thy quinoa! I’m hoping this will turn out like whiskey, in that I will be able to consume it again in a few years. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Yeah, so, um. I made quinoa last night (this delightful recipe) and I washed it and washed and washed it more. And I was fine.

    Patrick was not.

    My poor husband woke up at 4 in the morning with horrid stomach cramps. I told him your story and said I would not serve him quinoa again. Oops.

  4. Yikes! Poor Patrick! That’s the thing, it doesn’t seem to affect everyone in the same way. My attorney never had a whisper of a problem.


    You’ll always have farro, though!

  5. I was excited to try frozen quinoa from Trader Joes for the first time last night, that is until it tried to kill me too. I have never experienced such horrible lower abdominal cramps! I was doubled-over in pain for hours and will never eat it again.

  6. Nooo! Quinoa claims another victim!

  7. Wow… I had no idea quinoa could do this. I’ve only made it a couple of times and as far as I can remember, did not wash it all… or washed it extremely lightly. I don’t recall any stomach cramps, either. This is fascinating and slightly terrifying.

  8. Wow is right. Quinoa is like crack to me. I have never even HEARD of washing it prior to cooking and it always makes me happy. I can’t get enough of it. My sister, on the other hand, will be happy to know it tries to kill people besides her.

  9. I’m on the couch right now. I loved quinoa but not anymore. This is horrible. How many hours will this last?

  10. Never had a problem with quinoa and I never rinse it. I do cook it well. Love my quinoa. Sorry it makes some people sick.

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