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The high-protein plant the Incas called ‘the mother of grains’ is a perfect winter comfort food.

Quinoa is easy to cook. First, rinse it to remove any of the powdery residue (saponins) that may remain on the seeds. (Even if quinoa was rinsed before packaging, I suggest you rinse it again.) Simply wash it with running water a couple of times or soak it in a bowl of water for a couple of hours. Change the water twice.

To cook, use about twice the quantity of water (2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa) and simmer on low for about 15 minutes.


Extra virgin olive oil1 small piece pancetta

2-3 cloves garlic

1-2 fresh sage leaves

¼ cup red quinoa, rinsed and dry

3/4 cup of water


Extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh Espelette pepper, sliced thin (dried may be substituted)

The ½ cup cooked, cooled quinoa

3 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

1/2 head fresh lettuce, chopped

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon segments (cut in small pieces)

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper

4 large calamari (cleaned, body and tentacles separated)

Squid ink (optional)


Heat some extra virgin olive oil and roast the pancetta. When almost golden, add garlic cloves and sage and continue to roast for a minute or so. Then add dry quinoa and toast lightly. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. (Quinoa should still be whole, and it is important not to overcook it.) Spread on a tray and cool.

In a wide pan, heat some olive oil and sauté the fresh Espelette. Then, add ½ cup of quinoa (already cooled) and toast until a little crunchy. Add pine nuts until heated through and transfer the mix into a big bowl. Next, add lettuce, parsley, and lemon segments. Toss lightly and season well with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Continue by stuffing the squid with the mix. Take a toothpick and seal the end closed.

Heat a cast-iron pan until very hot. Add a touch of olive oil, season the outside of the squid with salt and pepper. Keeping the pan constantly quite hot, cook calamari for 3 to 4 minutes, turning the squid every minute or so to give a nice golden colour all around. Remove the stuffed squid and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little bit more olive oil and season the tentacles liberally and cook. This should take just a few minutes. Remove from pan and toss in a little extra virgin olive oil and a touch of squid ink (if available). The stuffed squid and tentacles can then be served with a little more toasted quinoa, some tomato sauce, and a little herb purée.

Normand Laprise is co-owner and head chef of Toqué! in Montreal.

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