Despite my status as the child of natural food loving hippies, I don't think I ate quinoa until about four years ago. I had a friend who was working on eliminating wheat and rice from her diet and so was looking for alternatives. Someone suggested she check out quinoa and so she started experimenting with it, creating some seriously delicious dishes in the process. I particularly remember some stuffed acorn squash that were ridiculously delicious.
Across the country, at about the same time, my sister started eating it regularly. One of her favorite ways to use it was as a base for quick meals, like her signature Bean-wa, Green-wa, Quinoa. That would be a can of beans (garbanzos mostly), some cooked greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards, whatever she had around), some sauce (typically Trader Joe's masala simmer sauce, but anything meant for pasta works well) and a couple of cups of cooked quinoa. Stir together, heat and eat.
photo by Marisa McClellan For those of you not in the know, quinoa is an ancient pseudocereal (not actually a cereal grain, but a seed that acts like a grain when cooked) that has been around for over 6,000 years. It was one of the primary crops of the Incans, in large part because it is a complete protein on it's own. It doesn't need to be paired with any other food (like how rice must be paired with beans) in order to provide total nutrition.
Cooking quinoa is really easy, because once on the stove it acts much like white rice. It gets two parts water to every one part quinoa (and it really fluffs up when cooked, so keep that in mind when estimating how much you will need). I boil the water in the kettle before adding it to the pot with the grain, but I don't believe that is necessary, it's just my habit. I always add a pinch of salt at the beginning of cooking as it gives the quinoa a little more flavor once finished. Then I use it the way I'd use any other grain, in salad in place of couscous, under sauteed veggies instead of rice, in soups in place of barley. It is terrifically versatile.
Here are a few recipes for ways in which other folks are using quinoa these days:
Southwestern Quinoa at Fun with your Food
Salade de Quinoa Rouge Poivrons et Pignons at Chocolate and Zucchini
Quinoa Salad with Pecans and Fresh Herbs at About.com
Tofu Mole with Quinoa, Portabellos, Peppers and Zucchini at Vegan Improv
Quinoa and Grilled Zucchini Recipe at 101 Cookbooks
Filed Under: Ingredients
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