Monday, June 15, 2009

Everyone is Talking About Quinoa

It might be a bit of an exaggeration to stay that everyone is talking about quinoa but it is easy to say it's more commonly known today than ever before. At my shift at C.H.I.P.S. soup kitchen on Saturday we served some leftover quinoa salad. My shift mates were not very familiar with quinoa so I decided to post some recipes today to help them and you my reader. This morning on NPR there was a segment about people who are on gluten free diets and how they can benefit from adding quinoa to their diets to replace wheat. You can find it at any supermarket or health food store that carries a good selection of whole foods.

Quinoa is technically a relative of leafy vegetables not a cereal grain that was once considered gold of the Inca's. You can serve it as a substitute for rice or other grains. I like to steam quinoa add cilantro and scallions and use as a filling for burritos. It's also great in stuffed vegetables, the recipe below for saffron quinoa would be really good stuffed in red bell pepper with a morrocan style tomato sauce (think harissa). It comes in flake or as a flour and can be added to muffins or cakes . It is a complete protein and rich in magnesium, fiber and anti-oxidants. For more information on quionoa's health benefits go to the world's healthiest foods web site.

I am including two different uses and cooking teqhniques for quionoa. The first is a side dish where the quinoa is steamed the second is a salad and the quiona is cooked like pasta. Once you get the hang of quinoa you'll probably want to use it as a regular staple in your diet.

Saffron Quinoa with Peas

Serves 4-6

Saffron threads are highly prized pistils harvested by hand from the purple crocus grown in Iran, Kashmir and Spain. It is often used in North African cooking to give a fragrant, flavorful and colorful quality in stews and grain dishes. This recipe substitutes rice with quinoa resulting in a nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture. Quinoa is also a nutritious whole grain that is a complete protein.
Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, and Corn tossed with Mixed Herbed Vinaigrette

1 Cup Quinoa
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Half of red onion, minced
2 Cups of Water
3-4 threads of Saffron
Salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup of frozen peas
1. Wash quinoa thoroughly in a bowl of cold water. Briskly rub the grains in the bowl of water and then drain in a strainer. Repeat procedure.
2. Place quinoa in a medium pot, about 3 quarts. Heat pot and stir grains till they dry out. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and cook a few minutes more, stirring frequently.
3. Add water, salt and saffron and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 11 minutes till there is still some water left, but almost cooked.
4. Add peas and simmer about 3 minutes more, until the water is cooked out and the quinoa has opened. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, and Corn tossed with Mixed Herbed Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

In this recipe the quinoa is cooked like pasta in 4 quarts of boiling water instead of steamed in 2 quarts of water. This way the quinoa kernels remain separate and the texture is chewier, perfect for a salad. The addition of fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes and fresh corn and lots of fresh herbs, makes the salad perfect for summer parties and picnics. Feel free to use other vegetables and herbs from the garden.

Salad Ingredients
1 cup quinoa,
4 cups of water
¼ pound fresh green beans
3 small ears of corn
8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
Mixed herb vinaigrette (see recipe to follow)
1. Wash quinoa thoroughly by filling a large bowl with cold water, rub the grains, drain and repeat 2 more times, or until the water runs clean. Meanwhile bring the 4 quarts of water to boil, add a pinch of salt and the quinoa. Bowl for about 12 minutes or until the quinoa is translucent. Drain well and spread out the quinoa on a sheet pan to allow it to cool and to stop it from cooking further.
2. Meanwhile steam the green beans for about 4 or 5 minutes or until cooked, drain and shock in ice water. Steam or boil the corn for 2-3 minutes depending on how fresh the corn is.
3. Cut the green beans into small pieces, about 1 inch or so, set aside. Remove the corn kernels from the cobs, set aside.
4. Place quinoa in a bowl and add half the vinaigrette, stir to blend. Add the green beans, corn and cherry tomatoes, and mix well. Add the rest of the vinaigrette or as much as is needed and mix again. Serve slightly chilled or room temperature.

Mixed Herb Vinaigrette
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 sprigs of marjoram, stems removed
2 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
1 sprig of tarragon, stem removed
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 ounces of extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces of walnut or hazelnut oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Place the vinegar in a blender with the herbs and Dijon mustard and blend for a minute or two. If you don’t have a blender, mince the herbs and whisk with the vinegar and mustard. With the blender motor running, slowly add the oils, or use a whisk while adding the oils.
2. Season with salt and pepper.

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