Monday, May 30, 2011

What to do with Quinoa

Just about everyone has heard about quinoa--the super-healthy, protein-packed, all-star food. But does anyone know how to cook it so that it tastes good? Here are my tips, plus a little more info on exactly what quinoa is and why there's all this hype about it.

First, What is Quinoa? (and how do you pronounce it?)
-It's pronounced 'keenwah'
-It's not a true ceral grain, but rather a member of the chenopodium family. I have no idea what that means, but I know that quinoa is a seed rather that a grain.
-While it's fairly new to North America, quinoa has been popular in South America since at least 3,000 B.C.
-Quinoa is much, much higher in protein than other seeds and grains, and it contains all 8 essential amino acids (the molecules that make up proteins), making it a 'complete protein'.
-It's also high in phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and several of the B vitamins.
Next, How do you prepare it?
-The seeds are naturally coated with saponin, a resin-like substance that tastes extremely bitter. The saponin must be removed in order for the quinoa to be edible, so when you buy quinoa from the store, chances are that it's been removed. However, I find that quinoa can still taste bitter if you don't rinse it before cooking, so I strongly suggest rinsing it before anything!
-Cooking is simple--place a ratio of 1 part rinsed quinoa to 2 parts liquid in a pot, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender.

Here are some delicious recipes that I love with quinoa!

Zucchini-Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow summer squash (or another zucchini), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or almonds or walnuts)

1. In a medium pot, mix the quinoa and water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over medium heat.
3. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until just barely tender, then add zucchini, squash, and thyme. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, basil, and some salt and pepper.
5. Combine the cooked quinoa, the vegetables, and the dressing in a large bowl, then garnish with nuts.

Banana Breakfast Quinoa
(serves 2)

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk or non-dairy milk
1/2 a banana, mashed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
garnishes: chopped almonds, berries, maple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a medium pot.
2. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low heat, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes.
3. Serve with garnishes.

Go enjoy some quinoa!

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