If you frequently peruse cooking magazines or if you are fond of healthy-cooking shows, chances are you have encountered a recipe that calls for quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Quinoa is an ancient grain-like seed now sweeping the nation with its superfood status.
Originating from the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, quinoa is believed to have been discovered more than 5,000 years ago. Although served like a whole grain, quinoa is referred to as a pseudo-cereal because it is actually a seed. Containing all nine essential amino acids, quinoa is protein-packed, offering six grams per serving without the pesky fat content that accompanies animal products.
Like whole grains, quinoa is high in fiber, making it a great choice for weight loss and individuals with diabetes. It is incredibly high in minerals, particularly manganese (helpful in balancing blood-sugar levels, synthesizing cholesterol, and optimizing thyroid function), magnesium and phosphorous. Quinoa is also an excellent source of folate (take note if you are pregnant). Also gluten-free, quinoa is an ideal choice for those who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance
The texture of quinoa is similar to couscous. It can be served warm or cold. The best news about quinoa is that it is very quick-cooking—almost as speedy as pasta. Place one cup of rinsed quinoa in a pot of two cups of water (use a soup broth for more flavor). Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season it how you like.
Abigail Henson, owner of Lost & Fondue, a new restaurant at 38 Jordan St., Skaneateles (308-3621), suggests replacing half of the water with a flavored beverage to give it more zest. “Fresh grapefruit juice is a delicious option,” she notes.
Quinoa is readily available in the bulk section of Wegmans and health food stores. The price range generally varies between $4 and $5 per pound. For a superb value, you can purchase a two-pound bag of organic quinoa at BJ’s Wholesale Club for just $4.99. You can also find quinoa prepackaged by Ancient Harvest.
And like rice, quinoa comes in varieties; the most common is white, but you can also try red, black and multicolored. They are all very similar in taste and nutrient value. Some health food stores carry it seasoned. For example, Green Planet Grocery, 3514 W. Genesee St., Fairmount, carries dried quinoa with curry and quinoa with mixed vegetables.
What if you are in no mood to cook? There are some microwaveable quinoa options. Try Seeds of Change’s Quinoa and Brown Rice. This certified organic blend goes from pantry to table in under two minutes. Green Planet Grocery and Wegmans both have prepared quinoa options. Green Planet Grocery has a quinoa black bean corn salad (7 ounces for $2.99) in the refrigerator case near their juice bar. Stop by Wegmans in DeWitt and visit their salad bar; they often have a quinoa salad with cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a citrus-flavored dressing.
You can also dine out and get your quinoa fix. Go for a Lower East Side vibe and visit Sparky Town, 324 Burnet Ave. They serve the late Sparky Mortimer’s special quinoa tabouli over mixed greens for $5.50. The extra-hearty and nutty taste of this quinoa results from Sparky’s secret preparation method, which Joe Perez and other Sparky Town employees collectively documented when they decided to keep her legacy alive after she died last November.
“Sparky taught us that the best way to prepare quinoa is to bake it on a very low heat with the 2-to-1 liquid and grain proportion for a couple of hours,” Perez says. This dish makes for an excellent vegan lunch; it is flavored with oregano, thyme, olive oil and garlic, and includes finely chopped cucumbers and diced succulent, local tomatoes (in season).
You can also find quinoa at Lost & Fondue, a café with a European feel. Henson’s three favorite foods are quinoa, arugula and beets, so it is no surprise that these foods appear not only in her regular menu choices, but also in her specials. Lost & Fondue’s Rise and Shine Menu, served from 8:30 to 11 a.m., includes a quinoa alternative to traditional oatmeal; it is a porridge made with quinoa and two other superfoods, chia and amaranth, in almond milk.
For lunch or dinner, served Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m., try the Keemun quinoa salad or the tofu chickie salad. The quinoa in the Keemun quinoa salad is cooked in water and Keemun black tea (which has a toasty, earthy fruit flavor). The salad also includes roasted beets, crumbled goat feta and dill, with light vinaigrette. The tofu chickie salad consists of crumbled tofu with red onion, celery and quinoa on crisp greens. The specials menu occasionally includes quinoa options as well.
You can also find quinoa in chocolate. Stop by Green Planet Grocery for dark chocolate-coated quinoa puffs, available in the bulk department. They are akin to mini-Nestle Crunch bars, only they taste even better. Wegmans and several area health food stores also carry Alter Eco’s fair-trade chocolate bars which includes a dark chocolate quinoa option.
Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite for delightful quinoa.
Two of the following recipes are from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood (2010, Whitecap Books), by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming.
Beef Vegetable Quinoa Soup
Quinoa isn’t just for the vegan set; carnivores can enjoy its intriguing texture and the enhanced nutrition it brings to any dish, even soup.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup diced stewing beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup quinoa
4 cups beef broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup green peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Place the beef in the pan and brown for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook until the onion is opaque, about 10 minutes. Add the quinoa and beef broth. Make a bouquet garni by placing the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and parsley in a bundle and tying with a string. Immerse the bundle in the soup. Simmer the soup for about 17 minutes, until the quinoa is tender. Add the red pepper and peas in the last 8 minutes of cooking. Remove the fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
This recipe is from the author of this article, who also works as a nutritionist.
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1 cup vegetable or mushroom broth
1 cup water
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and lemon pepper to taste.
Bring the quinoa, broth and water to a boil. Add the zucchini, cover and reduce to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper.
1 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups seeded and diced ripe tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 4 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool. Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion and quinoa together in a large bowl.
Combine the oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix well and add to the tomato and cucumber mixture. For the best flavor, let the salad sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving. Refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.