Quinoa — pronounced “‘keen-waa” — is the newest old grain to take the country by storm.
It has been cultivated in the highest, continuously farmed region on Earth — the South American Andes — since at least 3,000 B.C. and was consumed for thousands of years by the Incas, but its resurgence can be attributed in great part to its nutrition.
One cup of cooked quinoa contains more protein and is lower in carbohydrates than wheat, rye, rice or oats. It also contains all the essential amino acids and is chock full of iron, phosphorus manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, folate and niacin.
The plant itself produces a tall, leafy stalk that grows 5 to 6 feet tall with broad leaves and large, bulky heads.
Its seeds, which encompass some 1,800 varieties, vary greatly in size, shape, and color, most often resembling a cross between sesame seed and millet. Colors range from black and yellow to orange, red and white.
Quinoa is not a true cereal grain, but is commonly referred to as such because it is often used just like a real grain. Rather, it is the seed of the Chenopodium or goosefoot plant. Beets, spinach, Swiss chard and lamb’s quarters are all relatives.
Much of it is grown in the mountains of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, said David Schnorr, president of the California-based Quinoa Corp.
Devotees point out that quinoa is so versatile, it is easily incorporated into every meal of the day.
For breakfast, simply cook it in apple juice with a few raisins and chopped apples tossed in. Top it with a little milk and cinnamon. Or you can cook it up like cream of rice or oatmeal.
For dinner, try cooking quinoa in water or chicken broth and eat it salted or with soy sauce like rice. You can also toss in vegetables and make a dish similar to fried rice. Quinoa pudding instead of rice pudding is another possibility.
Quinoa is sold in health food and many grocery stores as a packaged dried grain. It should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.
Most experts suggest cooking a cup of quinoa in two cups of water for 10 to 15 minutes. When cooked, it should be tender, light and fluffy, puffing up to more than three times its original size.
While cooking, the germ, which completely surrounds the rest of the grain, falls away and remains slightly crunchy, while the grain itself becomes meltingly soft. This dual texture makes quinoa like two grains in one.
Quinoa possesses a bitter coating called saponin that protects it from being eaten by birds and insects as it grows.
It usually has already been rinsed off the substance before it is packaged, but if you’re not certain, it doesn’t hurt to rinse it again in a sieve, rubbing the grains between your fingers. Drain and repeat until the water runs clear.
Chef Bill Phillips, a lecturing instructor in Culinary Arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, said he believes the popularity of the grain today is partly because of a rise in wheat, corn and soy allergies. It also appeals to those who want to avoid genetically modified grains.
“It can be popped the same way as popcorn. I often sauté the cooked grain for a crunchy texture and add spices such as curry or garlic and chilies. It can be eaten as a porridge with milk and sweetener. It can be baked into a loaf with nuts or formed into patties and sauteed with onions or any other vegetable added,” he said.
Quinoa Pilaf with Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
Recipe from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2⁄3 cup quinoa, rinsed in several changes of cool water
1 small bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 cup diced roasted red bell pepper
1⁄2 cup diced roasted yellow bell pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until aromatic and tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the broth, quinoa, bay leaf, thyme, and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Stir well with a fork, and bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pot and simmer the quinoa over low heat (or in a 325-degree oven) until tender and very fluffy, about 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Fluff the grains with a fork to break up any clumps, and fold in the bell peppers. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once.
Serving Suggestion: Any leftover quinoa could be combined with diced vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, celery, avocado and tomato and then dressed with a vinaigrette. Serve it chilled as a salad, or as the filling for a pita sandwich garnished with alfalfa and radish sprouts.
Makes 6 servings.
Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Quinoa with Mixed Berries
Recipe provided by the Crock-Pot Brand.
11⁄2 cups imported quinoa
2 cups orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Pinch of salt
1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
1⁄4 cup dried blueberries
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon orange zest
1⁄4 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
In a large bowl, add quinoa, fill with cold water, and massage between fingers. Drain in fine strainer, and repeat this process three more times or until there is no foam.
Transfer quinoa to 11⁄2-quart to 3-quart slow cooker, and add juice, brown sugar, butter and salt. Gently swirl to mix ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours.
Mix in dried fruit, cinnamon, zest and nuts.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.
Recipe from Carol Fenster, author of Gluten-Free Quick & Easy.
1 can (14.5 ounces) or 13⁄4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (Safeway and Swanson’s Natural Goodness are gluten-free)
3⁄4 cup water
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 English (hothouse) cucumber, unpeeled and chopped
3 green onions, washed and thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, washed, cored, and diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, washed, cored, and diced
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh mint
1⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
Put the chicken broth, water and oil in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and salt, reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, covered, or until the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Drain the quinoa well.
Toss the cooked quinoa and the salad ingredients (except feta cheese) in a large serving bowl.
Combine the dressing ingredients in screw-top jar and shake vigorously to blend. Pour over quinoa mixture and toss until all the ingredients are thoroughly coated.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving. Toss with the feta cheese just before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Zucchini-Quinoa Quick Breads
Recipe from Carol Fenster, author of Gluten-Free Quick & Easy.
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
11⁄4 cups purchased gluten-free flour blend
3⁄4 cup quinoa flour or quinoa flakes
3⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
11⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups finely grated zucchini (3 small or 2 medium zucchini)
3⁄4 cup dark raisins
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
3 teaspoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease three mini 5-by-3-inch nonstick (gray, not black) loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until light yellow and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until well-blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour blend, quinoa, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat them into the egg mixture until the batter is smooth and slightly thickened. Stir in the zucchini, raisins and nuts.
Spread the batter evenly in the pans and smooth the top of the batter with a wet spatula. Lightly coat the loaf tops with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar on each loaf.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 servings.
Black Bean and Quinoa Burritos
Recipe from Julie Languille, author of Fast Family Food.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
11⁄2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3⁄4 cups uncooked quinoa
11⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup corn kernels, frozen
2 cans black beans (15 ounces, drained)
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
8 flour or wheat tortillas, large
Salsa for serving
In saucepan, heat oil, add onion and garlic, and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, take corn out of freezer and rinse quinoa under cold water.
Add quinoa, broth, and cumin to saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in corn, beans and cilantro and simmer until heated through.
Serve filling wrapped in warm tortillas topped with salsa.
Makes 6 servings.
Sour Cream Fudge Cupcakes
Recipe from Quinoa Corp.
1⁄4 cup butter or margarine
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
11⁄4 cup quinoa flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄4 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place butter and water in saucepan. Bring to boil, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Sift together the sugar, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and sour cream and blend well. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter. Spoon into muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
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