Dear Barbara: I am seeing more and more recipes that call for quinoa. This is my question: Is quinoa a pasta (like couscous), or a grain like rice?
— Ruby from Lodi
Dear Ruby: Quinoa is neither pasta or a grain. It is technically a seed. The seed comes from a plant called the goosefoot plant. Quinoa has a bit of a texture that adds just a hint of crunch. My husband eats it every other day as a hot cereal with some fruit bits mixed in. Quinoa is very much a “power protein.”
You can use a rice cooker if you like, or a sauce pan with the same ratio that you would use with rice. The quinoa cooks very fast and you must watch it at all times.
Dear Barbara: Is it possible to use other tomatoes in place of ones mentioned in recipe? I didn’t plant roma tomatoes this year, or heirlooms.
Dear Virginia: I’m assuming that these tomatoes are going to be used fresh. Roma tomatoes are firmer with less juice than heirlooms, but tastes like a standard tomato. Heirlooms, on the other hand are softer, with more juice. Each type of heirloom tomato has its own distinct flavor.
Since I don’t know what dish you are making, it is hard for me to give you much advice. I think if it were me, I would use whatever tomatoes I had on hand. You can always seed it and peel the tomato, which also gets rid of a lot of the juices.
Dear Barbara: My family loves grilled veggies, but I have a lot of trouble with them. They just seem to fall apart, or stick to the grill and tear when you take them off. They still taste good, but they don’t look appetizing! What can I do to fix it?
— Sharlene from Lockeford
Dear Sharlene: Grilling vegetables can be a little tricky. You need to be sure the grate is clean. Oiling the grill is also important. Brush the grate with some vegetable oil before you put the vegetables on, or just use a paper towel dipped in the oil and wipe the grate. When you said they fall apart indicates to me that you may have cut them too thin. Be sure that you cut your vegetables no less than an inch thick. This will help them keep their shape. Also very important in the process is not to overcook them. If you are cooking squash, onions, etc., squeeze the sides with your thumb and forefinger. If they are softly squeezable, they are done. Happy veggie grilling!
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.