Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I have developed a real thing for quinoa. I was first introduced to this ancient grain about 10 years ago but never paid it much attention.

Quinoa is technically not a grain, but a seed. However it is used as a grain when cooking, as it cooks up very similar to rice. It is considered one of the most complete plant based proteins, giving 24 g of protein in one cup. Here's a quick blurb I found on quinoa.

Quinoa is a very versatile food. It is a seed, which cultivation and uses date back to pre-Incan times. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Quinoa naturally comes coated in saponins,which cause a bitter taste. Most quinoa sold in the U.S. has been rinsed before packaging. If buying quinoa in bulk it may need to be soaked before hand to remove the bitter saponins. The quinoa should be soaked for a few hours then rinsed well under running water.

To prepare quinoa, is similar to rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14-18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl. Alternatively, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa. To that end, one volume of quinoa should be combined with two volumes of water.

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Quinoa--Facts-and-Easy-Recipes)

I have sprouted quinoa and used in bread recipes. I've also used leftover cooked quinoa to thicken "cream" based soups without having to use any cream. Simply blend equal parts cooked quinoa and water until smooth and stir into soups. It also makes a satisfying warm breakfast cereal with a pat of butter, pinch of salt, and drizzle of maple syrup. (Thanks for that suggestion KBM!)

Here are two quinoa salads I have been enjoying recently.

Quinoa with sundried tomatoes, basil, and pine nuts (or chic peas)

Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water until absorbed and fluff with a fork. Soften 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes in warm water. In a pan, warm about 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat. (Do not let it smoke) Add 2 cloves of minced garlic until fragrant. Squeeze out the tomatoes and dice small, add to the warm garlic oil. Add a pinch of red pepper flake. Then remove from heat and pour oil mixture over the quinoa. Chiffonade a handful of basil and add to the bowl. I often add spinach at this point with the basil. Add 1/4 cup of pine nuts and/or 3/4-1 cup of cooked chic peas. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the bowl and then mix it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts (Thanks for this recipe Sherry!)

Combine 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking until all water is absorbed. In a medium bowl, combine cooked quinoa, 1 cup of dried cranberries, 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans, and 1/4 cup of sliced green onion. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 2 cloves of garlic (minced) until well blended. Pour over the quinoa mixture and toss until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.