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We like the nutty, earthy flavor and gentle crunch of quinoa, but too often salads made with this seed—it’s technically not a grain—end up mushy and flavorless. For a better way, we looked to Deborah Madison, author of “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” She cooks her quinoa in carrot juice, a winning combination that perked up its natural sweetness and tempered its tendency to muddiness. We also liked a quinoa by Erik Ramirez of Brooklyn’s Llama Inn. His famously madcap quinoa pilaf studded with bananas, bacon, cashews and avocado showed us that texture and contrast can make quinoa exciting. We liked a simple combo of chewy-sweet dates and crunchy almonds. We took a three-step approach to keeping our pilaf light and fluffy: first toasting the quinoa, then cooking it with less liquid than typically called for, and finally letting the cooked quinoa rest before fluffing. For texture, we added dates and almonds or cashews; both worked. Finishing with scallions, lemon and fresh dill brightened the final dish. Eat this as is or pair it with sautéed shrimp, broiled salmon or fried tofu.
tablespoons salted butter
medium carrot, peeled and diced (about ½ cup)
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