Quinoa Overboard

Uncooked Quinoa

Plenty of info and savory recipes about and for quinoa, the “new rice.”

I saw a friend post today on Facebook that he purchased quinoa (pronounced keen’-wah) and was looking for recipes. One thing I love for this blog is to actually have a prompt, an invitation, a need. I already have a list a mile long of topics to address here, and so when someone asks a specific question it not only gives me direction, but enables me to reach out, as a blogger. Cool.

So, quinoa. Now, I said a long time ago that this blog was only for accessible, nourishing foods, and that I would try to never submit you to things like tofu turkey or homemade macaroons, or whatever. However, quinoa has been growing in popularity so steadily over the past several years that it is now just about a pantry staple. Not yet (as we can see by the crunchy responses to my friend’s Facebook question), but you can get a box or a bag of it at conventional grocery stores, and even the big box stores. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be some sort of Tex-1950s-style casserole that will stick in the American cuisine?

Now, I would prefer, as always, that your quinoa be non-GMO and preferably organic, but you don’t have to worry about whole grain because, so far, it is what it is. Since quinoa came in the back door of food popularity as a health food, let’s just hope they (producers, manufacturers) leave it pretty much alone. But, and this really bears mentioning for so many “health foods,” the more processed a food is, the less healthy it is. So by the time you get to quinoa-crunch granola bars, quinoa power juice, or quinoa and cranberry cereal, you have lost some of (or a lot of) the goodness of the grain. That’s just the way it is.

Bag of Quinoa from Costco

Why is quinoa so great anyhow? Protein! It is a complete protein, and one of the only non-meat things to provide all the amino acids you need as internal building blocks. It also contains wonderful amounts of fiber, vitamins and nutrients, and phytonutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron. (You can see how it would be very popular with vegetarians.) Quinoa is often listed as a super food, or a best food. It’s also a gluten-free grain, so celiac sufferers can enjoy.

Domesticated in South America thousands of years ago, quinoa was an important food staple for the Andean Indians and then the Incas, but it was persecuted for religious reasons (yes, I do mean the food) and eventually fell out of large-scale production until the American health food nuts managed to make it popular again. It has a nutty taste profile, but is similar in texture and uses to rice or other grains. It is easy to prepare–as easy as another grain–but needs a thorough rinsing first to remove the saponin (a natural, soap-like pesticide). To rinse, simply place quinoa in a sifter and run cold water through it, moving kernels around with your hand, until the water running through is clear. I have heard that it can be purchased pre-rinsed, but the store I shop in does not offer this and I can’t speak to it’s cost-effectiveness. You can buy quinoa red; just cook it the same. Store on the shelf, like you would rice.

To address the dubious of you, quinoa is an easy and great addition to any diet. Most people seem to like it. I like the “nutty” taste and the slightly chewy-crunchy texture better than rice, but Kevin would much prefer rice. Give it a try. (By the way, I’m not going to stuff any squash with quinoa: it’s been done, and we don’t really love stuffed foods. Plus, how accessible is that?)

And no, none of these recipes contain meat, probably because quinoa is so beloved by vegetarians. Either have some meals without meat (which I recommend for several reasons), serve quinoa with a suggested meat where noted, or serve quinoa as a mix-in to chili. RealisticChef has a chili series taking place during the month of December and it’s a great way to be introduced to quinoa. Here is the first entry where you can then follow the chili thread. You can also find quinoa recipes for breakfast (porridge, mostly, like oatmeal) or in breads or other baked goods.

Rinsing Quinoa

PLAIN QUINOA

For use like rice; as a side, or with a soup, stew, chili, or even stir-fry. You can also just cook quinoa in an electric steamer, which is what I almost always do. See my post The Incredible Electric Steamer.

  1. Rinse 1 cup quinoa thoroughly according to previous directions.
  2. Combine quinoa, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Cover tight and cook over very low heat about 20 minutes. Set the pan aside and let sit, still covered, for about 15 minutes.
  4.  Fluff and serve (with a little butter or virgin coconut oil, if you want).

EASY QUINOA PILAF

  1. Prepare quinoa according to directions under “Plain Quinoa,” but use chicken or vegetable stock instead of the water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter or virgin olive oil. Add 1/2 cup sliced scallions and 2 cups corn kernels and cook until the scallions are still bright green, but soft.
  3. Stir corn mixture into the quinoa and top with 1/3 cup crumbled feta or grated sharp cheddar. Serve as a side to just about any meat entree, especially simply prepared chicken or even salmon.
Cooking Quinoa

A LITTLE-LESS-EASY QUINOA PILAF

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter or ghee in a sauce pan. Add 1/4 of an onion, minced and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa, 1/2 tablespoon red Thai curry paste (available widely by Thai Kitchen), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover tightly and lower heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt another tablespoon butter or ghee. Add 2 diced zucchini, the remaining 3/4s of the onion, chopped, and another 1/2 teaspoon red Thai curry paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup water, 1 cup carrot juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add 1 cup (fresh or frozen) peas and a couple sliced scallions and cook for 2 minutes more.
  6. Stir zucchini mixture into the quinoa with 1/4 cup raw cashews and taste for salt. Serve hot with just about any meat entree; I’m thinking blackened fish or a robust red or game meat.

QUINOA STEW

  1. Cook quinoa as directed under “Plain Quinoa.”
  2. Meanwhile, saute over medium heat 2 cloves pressed garlic and 1 large onion or bunch of scallions in 2 tablespoons peanut oil, covered, until soft.
  3. Add 1 stalk chopped celery and 1 peeled and sliced carrot. Saute 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1 diced red or orange bell pepper, 1 diced zucchini, 1 large diced tomato, 1cup veggie or chicken stock, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, cayenne to taste, 1 teaspoon oregano, and salt to taste. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until veggies are tender.
  5. Stir in quinoa, taste for spices, and top with fresh, chopped cilantro and grated Jack cheese or crema (which you can imitate by mixing sour cream with cream until it is justpourable). Serve with tropical fruit and enjoy.
Cooked and Fluffed Quinoa

TWO-SALAD SUMMER SUPPER

  1. Peel and boil 2 pounds Finn, fingerling, or Yukon potatoes until fork tender, but still firm enough to cut. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions under “Plain Quinoa.”
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons peanut oil (or olive), 3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, until emulsified (cloudy).
  4. Combine quinoa in a mixing bowl with 2 cups corn kernels, 1 diced red bell pepper, and 1/2 cup thin-sliced scallions. Toss dressing with salad and set salad aside, covered, until second salad is ready.
  5. In a small skillet, saute 1 small, chopped onion and 1 pressed clove garlic in 1/8 cup peanut oil until soft. Combine in blender with 1 cup peanuts, another 1/8 cup peanut oil, 2 de-seeded jalapenos (or to taste), 3/4 cup ricotta salata or feta, 1 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and salt to taste.
  6. In the meantime, slice potatoes into thick rounds. Toss the potatoes very gently with peanut sauce, 1 cup corn kernels, and sliced kalamata olives (or whole, on the side).
  7. Serve the two salads on a plate with optional arugula, pickled onions, and quartered hard-boiled eggs.

JAFFREY’S QUINOA WITH TOMATOES

  1. In a small, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add 1 pressed garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and stir.
  2. Add 1 chopped tomato or 1/2 of a 15 ounce can diced tomatoes. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon thyme and stir for 1 minute. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and stir another minute. Add 2 cups stock or water and salt to taste. You may also add cayenne pepper to taste.
  4. Cover tight and cook over very low heat about 20 minutes. Set the pan aside and let sit, still covered, for about 15 minutes. Fluff and serve alongside just about any entree.
Eamon Taking His Quinoa with Sugar and Cream

MADISON’S QUINOA SALAD

  1. Cook quinoa according to directions under “Plain Quinoa.”
  2. In a small bowl, combine 1 pressed garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon plain yogurt (or mayo or sour cream), 2 teaspoons quality curry powder, 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 5 tablespoons virgin olive oil. Whisk until emulsified (cloudy).
  3. Combine slightly cooled quinoa with 2 diced mangoes, 1 small-diced jalapeno, 3 thin-sliced scallions, 1/3 cup shaved almonds, a handful minced cilantro, and the dressing. Toss and serve on a bed of spinach with optional simple, grilled chicken breast, tropical marinaded white fish, or grilled pineapple.
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