*** I’m headed out for the weekend to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world – my best college friends – so I probably won’t be back until next week. Have a FAN TASTIC weekend and do something fun outdoors to celebrate Earth Day! ***
Quinoa (“Keen-wah”) is an ancient food – technically, a seed, not a grain – which has been cultivated in South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. but has just recently become recognized in modern Western culture. The ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and revered it as a sacred and staple food.
There are over 120 species of quinoa, but three main varieties: white, red, and black quinoa. Quinoa seeds are flat with a pointed oval shape. As they cook, the outer germ twists open, creating a spiral.
Quinoa is high in protein, calcium and iron, as well as vitamin E and some B vitamins. It is also a great source of amino acids, including lysine, cystine and methionine – amino acids typically low in other grains. Quinoa is considered to be a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein! About 1/2-cup of quinoa is enough to provide the required protein for a child for an entire day. Quinoa also contains albumen, normally found in egg whites, blood serum, and many plant and animal tissues, and can be a great addition to a vegan diet (or any diet!) Quinoa is GLUTEN-FREE.
Quinoa must be rinsed before preparing in order to remove the saponin, which makes it taste bitter and sudsy (don’t throw away this water – read on through the article to find out about its uses!)
The texture of cooked quinoa is soft but crunchy, and the flavor is mild and slightly nutty. It easily absorbs and mingles with other flavors in many recipes. The leaves are also edible, though I have never had the pleasure of eating a quinoa leaf salad. Cooked quinoa is excellent prepared as you would a grain, either in hot soups and stews, or casserole dishes, or cold in salads similar to tabbouleh. Quinoa cooks quickly, in about 15 minutes. It can be toasted, and made into cereal or flour, and from there has many applications.
Store quinoa in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to a year.
In South America the saponin which is removed from the quinoa is used as detergent for washing clothes and as an antiseptic to promote healing of skin injuries. And Crunchy Betty has an AWESOME suggestion for that rinse-water!
Read more about this wonder-seed, or read on for my favorite way to eat quinoa, passed down from a friend of a mom of a friend….
Quinoa and Pecan with dried Cranberry Salad
Add 1 ½ cups of quinoa to 3 ½ boiling water, lower heat and simmer covered for about 25 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Cool.
Put in large bowl and add:
- 2 bunches of green onions finely sliced
- 1 cup of dried cranberries diced
- 2/3 cup cilantro finely chopped (If making ahead, don’t put this in until close to serving)
- 1 ½ cups celery finely diced
- 1 ½ pecans coarsely chopped
Toss and then add dressing made with:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinigar
- 1 Tablespoon sesame seed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
I like the taste of this dressing and often make/add extra.