Monday, July 14

Quinoa

(keen-wa)

Readers, have you cooked with quinoa before? Do you like it? Please post a recipe or two in the comments that you've liked.

I didn't initially like quinoa all that much. Ryan said he's liked it for some time, so I kept going with it. Quinoa is a nutty, unrefined grain and a complete protein* with the highest protein content of any grain. It's fast-cooking and good for you. There is a multitude of quinoa recipes available, and I like that it's a good gluten-free option to have in stock. Quinoa is also simple to prepare, and I think as more time goes by, as Ryan, Lord willing, enters the pastorate and as our family hopefully grows in the future, I will keep simple things nearby for my sanity. Oh, and while Ryan loves quinoa, he would never want it to completely replace white rice. Ryan loves white rice. Not nearly as much as he loves me though. :: sigh ::

As for recipes, I found one I didn't care for very much but have enjoyed quinoa in other ways from the same chef. The cinnamon just wasn't a pleasing combination for me or Ryan. However, this grain married surprisingly well with cooked kale & collards from a couple weeks back. All that was added to the quinoa was a little olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Oh yeah, I also threw in some goat cheese, which added a nice creaminess. Hehe. Cheese.

Uncooked quinoa is pictured above, and once it's cooked, it looks like the picture to the right. The light "rings" remain a little crunchy, and the rice-like interior is soft. There is a buff colored grain and a red grain.

Sometimes, when I look at the search results for quinoa recipes, I think they're are all vegan, strange recipes that are weird to try, that have tofu, pistachios, pumpkinseed, and dates and bugs. I just skip those. Just kidding about the bugs. If you look through the recipes, you'll find contenders for excellent side (or even main) dishes, such as the recipes below. Give quinoa a chance. Some recommend rinsing the uncooked quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer 2-3 times before cooking to wash off the bitter coating that is often on quinoa. This coating is a natural deterrent to birds when quinoa grows. Some say today's cleaning and harvest of the grain is better and it's not necessary, so it can be optional. I rinse it if I remember.

Recipes:
Delicious Big Bowl - a surprisingly delicious combination of foods and flavors; a main dish
Quinoa with Corn, Scallions, and Mint - I plan to try this side dish soon since I don't need to buy any ingredients. My mom made it recently and gave it her highest rating. She reduced the quinoa by a half cup since some reviews said the quinoa seemed a little dry.
Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa - 98 user ratings, looks like simple prep
Other Highest rated quinoa recipes from Epicurious.
Quinoa and Onion Risotto with Crème Fraîche and Hazelnuts - from Cooking Light. I might use yogurt or sour cream in place of creme fraiche. Try almonds if you don't have hazelnuts.

If you want to start out simple, make a basic recipe (below), throw in some salt, pepper and 1 T olive oil when it's done and have it accompany the rest of dinner. If you have a meat prepared with some sauce, pair the sauce with the quinoa at the table. I prefer it to be teamed up with grilled or roasted meats as opposed to a meaty stew since the grain is fine and would become lost next to something like stew. It can be used in stews though. That's different. At least to me. Anyone else? Or, try it with grilled vegetables. Use quinoa in place of couscous in this bountiful summer dish (I have serious plans to do that). Seriously. For serious.

Unlike some other grains, quinoa has a long shelf life and does not require refrigeration. Other grains have fats that go rancid quickly and require refrigeration if not used right away. One source I read said quinoa is not a whole grain and is actually refined, like rice or barley. The Whole Grains Council says quinoa is a whole grain.

* complete means it has all the essential amino acids needed for growth and development. It's the only vegetable source of protein recognized as complete (like beans, meat and diary).

There you have it. I've equipped you with the ideas and knowledge to try quinoa. Now you just have to find it. Whole Foods will have it. If you live in my area, the best price is at the East End Coop near the seminary. If you've bought quinoa before, please post where you've found it for the benefit of others. I'm thinking it won't be at Giant Eagle, Meijer, Safeway, but I could be wrong. The price is likely to be higher and bulk buying really is the way to go with less common grains. This isn't typical fare for a Western diet. I did some research, and the best price I found online is from Natural Grocers for $1.59/lb. Not bad, but you have to spend $20 minimum, and add on shipping. Your best bet will be to find it locally since you'll have to pay shipping in most cases when buying online.

The advantage of going to Whole Foods is being able buy it in bulk and get a scoop or two for one recipe's worth for about a buck if you're trying it for the first time.

Basic Recipe

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

Place quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes 3 cups. Quinoa is done when the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated.

4 comments:

Rachel said...

I first tried quinoa a couple of years ago (can't remember where I bought it- probably in TX) and I have to say, I wasn't impressed. I found it difficult to eat and not-so-tasty. I probably didn't have a good recipe. Maybe I'll give it another try. I got the red kind, so maybe the lighter colored quinoa is easier to eat. I can see how adding cheese would add a lot of flavor too. Especially if it's cooked more like a risotto.

I think you've almost convinced me to try it. :)

Anonymous said...

We really like the Quinoa with Corn, Scallions and Mint recipe. This was the first time that I had tried quinoa and was very pleased with the flavor and texture. Looking forward to trying different recipes. I bought it at Winco Grocery store in their bulk food section, I can't remember the price per pound. I cooked it according to the recipe directions. The recipe for the quinoa onion ristto with creme fraiche and hazelnuts sounds good. I will have to try that one.
Mom

Alaina said...

Thanks for the links. I have some but we haven't tried it yet! You've inspired me to give it a try (we were given it). :)

Whole Grains Council said...

Right on, Alicia! Thanks so much for posting so extensively about quinoa, one of the ancient grains that seems to be making a big comeback right now. Thanks too for emphasizing that quinoa is indeed a whole grain, even though it is a botanical relative of Swiss chard and beets. There’s a bit for trivia night!

I also applaud your many recipe suggestions, and for pointing out how inexpensive it can be to buy. This is true of most whole grains, and it's important to talk about “bang for your buck” now more than ever, what with the rising cost of food prices. After all, if you know you might have to pay more for basics, it's all the more reason to make sure you're getting good taste AND good health - full value for your hard-earned dollars.

Keep up the great work!
- all of us at the Whole Grains Council