Most of you already know, it’s pronounced KEEN-Wah, grows in the Andes, and is high in protein. What didn’t you know? Did you know that quinoa has been cultivated for some 6,000 years, that the Incas considered it “the mother of all grains,” and that Peru and Bolivia are still the world’s leading producers? In the past twenty five years quinoa has come from being almost unknown in North America to being almost mainstream (I’ve bought organic quinoa at Costco). I attribute that in part to our obsession with protein–quinoa contains all the essential amino acids, and is 12-18% protein. It’s also a source of phosphorus, magnesium and iron, and is gluten free. Additionally, it’s quick cooking and easy to eat. In short, I predict a brilliant future for quinoa in North America. It’s major downside, that it is naturally coated with a bitter and slightly toxic substance called saponin, has mostly been eliminated by thorough washing before being marketed. Still, a good rinse before cooking is usually advised. Most commonly, quinoa is cooked like rice: two parts water to one part quinoa, bring to a boil, cover, turn down to a slow simmer and simmer for about twenty minutes. When cooked, the grains open up and acquire a tiny, white ring around them. Well-stocked natural food stores sell quinoa flakes and flour as well as the whole grain. You will happily eat quinoa as a simple cooked grain, or with a sauce, but if you want to dress it up a little, try my recipe for Quinoa-Potato Sauté with a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds (a marriage of three Latin American natives) …
QUINOA-POTATO SAUTE WITH TOASTED PUMPKIN SEED GARNISH
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked 20 minutes in 2 cups water
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 medium potatoes, cut into small dice
1/2 medium carrot, diced
1 small stock celery, diced
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teapoons umeboshi vinegar or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds as garnish
1. Cook the quinoa as usual.
2. Heat a roomy sauté pan, add a little oil and sauté the onions and garlic on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, adding a little pinch of salt. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté 3-4 minutes more.
3. Add the celery and parsley and continue sauteéing on low to medium heat, stirring frequently another 10 minutes or so, or until everything is tender and ligthly caramelized.
4. Add in the quinoa and sauté everything another 3-4 minutes, season with soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds.