July 3, 2009

Quinoa Two Ways

Quinoa is such a cool little seed. The Incas believed it made warriors strong; they called it the "mother seed" and regarded it as a sacred food. Quinoa is a "pseudocereal," not a grain, because the plant it comes from (Chenopodium quinoa, related to beets, chard, and spinach) is not a true grass. Technicalities aside, quinoa is quick-cooking and delicious, with a delicate nutty flavor and chewy texture. It is also high in protein and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids, meaning it provides a complete protein. This can't be said for grains such as wheat and rice. For more technical info about quinoa, check out this and this.

Quinoa seeds are coated with bitter, soap-like substances called saponins, which require soaking and thorough rinsing to remove. Usually this has been done before you buy it, so it just requires a quick rinse before cooking to ensure no saponins remain. However, like most whole grains, quinoa can still benefit from soaking before it's cooked -- this makes it easier to digest and increases nutrient availability. To soak, take 1 cup quinoa, and add 2 cups water and a splash of raw apple cider vinegar. Let sit covered at room temperature for 8-12 hours, then cook (you can use the soaking water to cook the quinoa, unlike bean soaking water, which should be discarded).

Cooking quinoa:
  • Bring quinoa and water (1:2 ratio of quinoa to water; or drain soaked quinoa and cook in stock or broth) to a boil, add a pinch of salt, stir, and reduce heat to low.
  • Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes (different brands require slightly different cooking times), until the outer germ layer separates from the seed and the seed is somewhat translucent. I like my quinoa al dente -- tender but with a little bite to it.
I make a pot of quinoa once or twice a week, and then use it in a variety of dishes over the days that follow: in salads, in place of rice in pilafs and with stir-fries and curries, and warmed up for breakfast with fruit or eggs on top.

Quinoa Tabouleh
Quinoa makes a great substitute for bulgur wheat in a light, summery salad with lots of parsley

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tomato, core and seeds removed, diced small
1/2 cup finely diced cucumber (I use English cucumber, which has a thin, tender skin and smaller seeds; it doesn't need to be peeled or seeded)
1/4 cup finely diced radishes
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2-3 T lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 cup XVOO
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl, seasoning to taste with lemon juice and salt and black pepper. Keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Quinoa and Berry Breakfast Porridge
A delicious, nourishing, and quick to prepare way to start the day, and a great use for leftover quinoa

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup coconut milk plus 1-2 T, separated (unsweetened)
1/2 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc)
1/2 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
  • Combine quinoa and 1/2 cup coconut milk in a small saucepan with a lid.
  • Simmer, covered, for 5-8 minutes, until mixture has thickened and has a porridge-like consistency.
  • Before serving, top with 1-2 T coconut milk and berries, and drizzle with honey (if desired)

1 comment:

  1. I just started eating quinoa. I never knew you should soak it. Thanks for the tip.