Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of those ancient seeds that many of us are beginning to discover and incorporate into our weekly diets at home.  Available as a creamy white or dark red seed, quinoa is high in fiber & protein and has nine essential amino acids.  Aside from the nutritional virtues found in quinoa, a flavorful serving can be cooked in less than 20 minutes making it possible to compose a good meal in less than 30 minutes.  Quinoa is something I like to make on a regular basis since it pairs well with just about any vegetable, but it's also wonderful to have with some flavorful tofu or some eggs cooked any which way; for vegans and vegetarians, the seed is a great way to include that necessary protein in one's diet.  You can, of course, serve it with some wonderfully poached fish, sauteed chicken cutlets or even a few Frenched lamb chops for heartier fare.  I prefer to eat quinoa with legumes because I get the added benefits of more fiber & more protein.  It is a perfect meal in one plate when you have this combination.


A helping of Quinoa.

Rather than cooking it in plain water, I always use a flavorful homemade or low-sodium store bought broth (either chicken or vegetable) to simmer the seeds until they're tender.  The one thing you must do before cooking quinoa, however, is to rinse it thoroughly in cold water to remove any residue of saponins.  Familiarize yourself with the basic way to cook quinoa and my preferred ratio of liquid to seed before you begin.  It's a great alternative to rice or even pasta.  Let's make some now.


Quinoa is small and round, resembling millet and even couscous many of us are familiar with.  The most commonly available type of quinoa varies in color from white to light beige (above), but it's also available in a dark red color.  Either one is quite nutritious.

I keep mine stored in an old apothecary jar tucked in my pantry. 

Basic Quinoa (4 servings)
  • 1 cup Quinoa {170 grams}
  • 1 1/2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken) or water {350 ml}
  • 2 pinches of salt or to taste
  • Note: if your stock already contains salt, don't add it.
Basic Quinoa (2 servings)
  • 1/2 cup Quinoa {85 grams}
  • 3/4 cup stock or water {175 ml}
  • 1 pinch of salt 

Note: most packages recommend cooking 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of liquid, but I find this to be too mushy for my tastes.  For a more toothsome & chewy texture, I prefer using a 1:1.5 ratio.
Using a fine mesh sieve (this is a tiny seed!), rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear.  I always use a spoon to move the quinoa around as I'm rinsing to remove any traces of residue.

Place the seeds and the stock (or water) in a pot; over high heat bring it up to a hard simmer (not a true boil).  As soon as it does, cover the pot with a lid and lower the heat to low.  Set your timer for 16 minutes. 

After 16 minutes, the liquid should be evaporated and fully absorbed by the quinoa.  If there is any trace of moisture on the bottom, continue to cook for another minute or two.  When done, let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes.

Every germ from the seed will open up and curl like a tiny tail when fully cooked.  The cooked quinoa is light and delicious when done.  Taste for salt and add a bit of pepper if you wish.


Tender, chewy & wonderfully good.

This tasty dinner contains a helping of my Basic Black Beans, some steamed organic corn (either frozen or fresh off the cob) and a generous serving of quinoa.  I topped it with a quick avocado salsa ( 1/2 an avocado chopped & 1 whole plum tomato, seeded & chopped; squeeze 1/2 a lime, salt & pepper to taste, toss & serve--enough for 2 helpings).  Don't forget to sprinkle everything with some chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro.  Delicious!


Treat yourself and your family to quinoa the next time you find yourself in a rut and don't feel like making rice or pasta as a side for dinner or lunch.  I'm glad that most major supermarkets are beginning to carry boxes or bags of quinoa which can be found in the same aisle as the rice & legumes.  Keep your eyes out for them the next time you're at the market and buy a small amount to try at home.

Although it resembles couscous in texture, the flavor is something entirely different.  Earthy & quite tasty, you're going to love how quickly it cooks and how good it is for you.  If you find yourself liking quinoa as much as I do, buy it in small quantities from a store with a high turnover rate and store it in a cool, dark part of your pantry.  A flavorful thing to cook, a nutritious thing to consume, quinoa is a good thing to stock at home.  Savor every spoonful!

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