HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend.

“Bring a big pot of water to boil.”

If you’ve ever cooked pasta, you know that phrase. A stockpot full of water set over high heat means dinnertime is approaching, and fast.

We love spaghetti, linguine, and egg noodles with great fervor, but we love variety too. Enter: grains, from freekah to millet, which find a frequent place in our dinners.

Yet even when we give pasta a break, we often like to use the “pasta method” to cook rice and other grains. Just as we’d throw our penne into boiling water, we add grains to the pot, then drain them in a fine mesh strainer after they’re cooked. There’s no need to measure the water when you do it this way, and you don’t have to monitor the pot so closely. In other words, it’s harder to mess up.

We love this method because it’s a more streamlined process, and in the case of the Quinoa with Baby Squashes, Basil, and French Feta Cheese, makes sure the quinoa holds its shape and texture better than when it slowly simmers, absorbs a pre-measured amount of water. In fact, the pasta method is how quinoa is cooked in its native Peru.

Here’s the rundown: boil several quarts of water in a pot with a lid, as if you were making pasta. Add a few pinches of salt and the grains you want to cook. Start checking the grains for doneness about 2 minutes before the package directions say they’ll be done; when grains are cooked to your liking, drain them in a metal mesh strainer. (Don’t use plastic or the hot water will melt it.)

Now you’re ready to eat or use them in your final dish.

Got questions about any of the techniques in our recipes? Leave a comment or shoot us a tweet and we’ll answer your question in an upcoming post.

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