I am on a quinoa kick these days. Have you tried it? Quinoa is pronounced “keen -wah” or “Kwin – noah” as my neigbour prefers. It is called ‘the mother of all grains’. Seriously. Another phone-a-friend fact, Quinoa is also the title of an album by a German electronic music band called Tangerine Dream.
Quinoa is an ancient plant from South America. The Aztec and Inca cultures considered quinoa crops sacred. Quinoa is part of the Amaranth family and grown organically in Canada. It is a good source of nutrition. It has essential fatty acids, B vitamins, natural sugars and trace minerals. Quinoa contains all eight of the essential amino acids, which makes it a high quality protein and a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. It is easy to digest and has a low glycemic index. Because it is not a true cereal grain, it is appropriate for people with grain sensitivities and is gluten-free. It is practically perfect. I guess that is why they call it THE MOTHER OF ALL GRAINS. (cracks me up)
Sometimes healthy food is a tough sell for my family of fussy eaters. Luckily, quinoa looks like couscous and is kind of bland. It has a fluffy, kind of crunchy texture and has a slight nutty flavour when cooked. It is easy to cook on the stovetop using water or broth for more flavour. My neighbour cooks it in a rice cooker (follow the directions for white rice). Whichever method you use, make sure you rinse it thoroughly before you cook it.
Personally, I like it cold in a salad especially in this hot weather. The idea of this recipe came from a magazine in my dentists office. I think it was a vegetarian cooking magazine. I did not use the ingredients they suggested (curry, cashews, cranberries) but it inspired me to replace couscous in a salad my Mom used to make for family gatherings. Here is the combination I like…
(Just eyeball everything…no measurements needed)
2 cups quinoa cooked and cooled
Parsley finely chopped
1 can of chick peas
Olive oil, lemon juice (from a whole lemon if you like it lemony), salt & pepper. Whisk, adjusting to suit your taste. Pour over salad and let it sit for at least an hour before and give it a good stir before serving.
The fun thing about this salad is you can easily accommodate different tastes, allergies; dietary restrictions etc. and the combinations are endless. My husband likes to add left over chopped chicken and hot sauce. My kids take a nut-free, no-feta version for lunch. My neighbour makes a colourful version with lots of chopped fresh garlic and all different peppers. It is a great way to use up stuff in your fridge too.
There are many ways to eat quinoa. It can be a hot/cold breakfast cereal or used as a substitute for rice or other grains in recipes. Quinoa seeds can be sprouted and eaten raw, or you can buy quinoa pasta, flour, baked goods or buy it dry as I did for this recipe. You can find it easily find it in various forms at health food stores, bulk stores and even big supermarket chains.
If you are looking for a new dish consider trying quinoa. Perhaps you are already a fan. How do you prepare it? New recipes and ideas are always welcome.