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Video tip: Toast rice and grains before cooking for added flavor

Toast rice and grains to add extra flavor to a dish

As with toasting spices and nuts, toasting grains before cooking can enhance the nutty depth of the grains, lending an extra layer of flavor to a final dish.

Toast grains in a dry saucepan over moderate heat, just until they become aromatic and color a little. Rice can be toasted in a dry pan, or sauteed with butter and a little flavoring before the liquid is added to cook (as with risotto).

If cooking a large batch, you can toast grains in the oven. Spread them out on a sheet pan and toast at 350 degrees just until aromatic, 5 to 7 minutes depending on the heat and quantity of grains. Then cook, or cool the grains and store until needed.

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.

QUINOA SALAD WITH SHIITAKES, FENNEL AND CASHEWS

Total time: 40 minutes / Servings: 4 to 6

Note: This recipe calls for a wok. Quinoa is generally available at health food stores as well as at well-stocked supermarkets.

2 cups quinoa

1 quart water

Salt

1/4 cup peanut oil

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 cups thinly sliced fennel (about 1 large bulb)

2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms

1 cup sliced green onions, both white and green parts (about 1 small bunch)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup toasted, salted cashews

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1. Rinse the quinoa under cool running water, then drain well with a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer (the grains are very small and will slip through a coarse strainer). Heat a wok over medium-high heat and toast the quinoa, shaking the pan frequently, just until the grains dry, are beginning to color and have a nutty aroma, about 4 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

2. In a medium, lidded pot, bring 1 quart of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa with a pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat the wok again over high heat. Add the peanut oil and heat until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the garlic and fry, stirring constantly, just until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds (the garlic can burn quickly). Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon, keeping the oil in the pan, and set aside.

4. Add the fennel to the oil and fry, stirring or tossing frequently, until it is caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oil and set aside. Add the shiitakes to the oil and stir-fry until caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the green onions in with the mushrooms and continue to stir-fry just until the green onions begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and vinegar to the mixture and stir or toss to combine, then remove from heat.

5. In a large bowl, gently toss the quinoa with the warm shiitake-green onion mixture, the fennel, garlic, cashews, parsley, cilantro, lime zest and juice. Season to taste with additional salt if desired and serve immediately.

Each of 6 servings: 497 calories; 17 grams protein; 65 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 273 mg. sodium.

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