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Destination Quinoa

Quinoa has become much more popular the past few years, but some questions remain. What is quinoa? How do I make quinoa? And most importantly, how the heck do I say “quinoa”?

The first time I had quinoa, I was an unassuming twenty-year-old, lost and scared in the Whole Foods that was inexplicably placed between a Circuit City and a Borders and across the street from a Target. I had already broken the first rule of going grocery shopping by showing up at the store hungry enough to eat an entire six-foot sub, with dipping sauce on the side, naturally. I’d picked up my usual groceries and on the way to the cash registers, I passed the ready-made deli section of the store. Unable to contain myself any longer, I look at the salads and cut cheeses that shimmered beneath the sneeze guard. I saw the quinoa salad, helpfully labeled “Quinoa Salad” and asked, timidly for “a big container of, uh, Quinn-oh-ah salad.” The deli-dude looked at me and just laughed. “It’s keen-wah,” he said. I was too hungry to care but now I know and you all now and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

Quinoa is actually the seeds of a plant in the Chenopodium genus. It originated in the Andes region in South America.  Because quinoa is the seeds of the plant, it is a great source of protein. What makes it even more special is that it is a complete protein, unlike beans. If you don’t eat meat, if you do eat meat, whatever you eat, it’s nice to be able to mix up your protein sources and this is a great choice. Quinoa isn’t totally ubiquitous, but it’s very common in fancier grocery stores and the “health/natural” section of some large chains.

Quinoa should be rinsed before being prepared to remove bitter chemicals called saponins. After it’s rinsed, throw it in a pan with a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio and you’re ready to go. It cooks like rice, maybe a little bit faster. You know you’re done when the water has absorbed and your quinoa is looking fine and fluffy. I like cooking it in broth to give it more flavor, but it’s not a necessity or anything.

Personally, I like to take some quinoa, cool it down and make it into a zesty springtime salad. That’s wishful thinking in February, but here’s the recipe for anyone dreaming of flowers and April showers.

2 cups cold quinoa, cooked

Juice from one lemon

Tablespoon of olive oil

1 avocado, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 large cucumber, diced

6 oz. baked tofu

Salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro (optional)

Just mix all of that together and eat it. It’s really forgiving, so you can basically make any substitution you want. Don’t like tofu? Try bell peppers instead. Or leave it out entirely.

Have you used quinoa? What do you use it in? If you haven’t, do you think you’d try it?

Image Credit from flickr

30 replies on “Destination Quinoa”

I usually eat quinoa for breakfast with toasted almonds, fresh apple pieces, cinnamon, and stevia. I toast the almonds in a generous amount of raw coconut oil because I’ve found that quinoa doesn’t keep me full unless there’s fat in it.

For anyone who doesn’t like the distinct aftertaste of quinoa, try the red variety, as it doesn’t seem to have the aftertaste.

How timely, I just made the most awesome Quinoa Porridge in the whole wide world because it is cold out and I’m sick of oatmeal. I used almond milk but I’m sure any milk would be yummy. Feeds 1 hungry person:

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
Lots of cinnamon

Put that in a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

Then add:
another 1/2 cup milk
chopped walnuts or any nuts you feel like
dried cranberries, blueberries, raisins, whatever
agave nectar, honey, or brown sugar

Now simmer it while stirring and let it thicken (about 10 minutes I think). If you are patient it’ll get really thick like a pudding but if you are hungry and can’t wait it’ll still be awesome. The quinoa is kind of crunchy and it keeps you full for ages. I think I might actually make this for dinner tonight because now I’m craving it.

It’s actually a recipe I got from Isa Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction. Blend together
2 tbsp chopped shallots
2 tbsp cashew pieces
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp miso
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp capers w/brine
1/8 tsp salt
black pepper
Blend it for 5 min. You may have to stop and scrape the sides a bit.

I love quinoa! I discovered it shortly after going vegetarian a little over 2 years ago and have been a big fan ever since. Here are a few recipes I like:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Avocado-Quinoa-Salad/Detail.aspx (vegetable broth can be used instead of chicken broth if you’re veg)

Quinoa With Peas and Parmesan

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
3½ cups vegetable broth
2 cups rinsed quinoa
2/3 cups grated parmesan cheese
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic, onion, and celery. Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, 5-7 minutes. Pour in vegetable broth and quinoa, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the peas, parmesan cheese, evaporated milk, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Quinoa and Black Beans

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
1½ cups vegetable broth
¼ tsp cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn kernels
1 (15-ounce) can black beans

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and sauté until lightly browned.

Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir corn into the saucepan and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans. The quinoa may turn an unappetizing shade of gray because of the beans, but do not be discouraged, it’s still delicious.

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