Originating in the Andes more than 6,000 years ago, quinoa has been “rediscovered” of late closer to home – and with good reason. Pronounced kin-WAUGH or kin-OH-ah, quinoa is an excellent source of protein, fiber, amino acids, iron and magnesium. No wonder it was renowned for increasing the stamina of ancient Inca warriors!
Quinoa is an especially good choice for vegetarians and vegans who need to up their protein intake; because it’s gluten-free, it can be eaten by people with wheat allergies or sensitivities.
Although often classed as a grain, quinoa is technically a seed from a plant related to spinach and beets. Three varieties of the plant are most commonly cultivated for seed production – resulting in white, red and black quinoa. When cooked, the dried seeds have a fluffy texture with a bit of crunch, and impart a nutty flavor – making quinoa a toothsome alternative to rice, couscous or even bulgur wheat in recipes.
Although modern processing removes most of the bitter, mildly toxic saponins that coat the seeds as they grow, it’s a good idea to wash and drain quinoa before cooking. Once rinsed, prepare quinoa just as you would white rice – that is, place one part quinoa to two parts water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes. When it’s ready, the quinoa grains will still be a little chewy – think al dente pasta – and the germ of the seed will have separated slightly, creating a curly “tail.”
You can find quinoa in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores, or in the bulk bin of your natural foods store. Because it contains protein and fats, quinoa is slightly more perishable than rice or other true grains; use it within three months of purchase.
Below is one of my favorite recipes for quinoa from the latest “Biggest Loser” book, 6 Weeks to a Healthier You. And to learn more about quinoa, try these links:
- Whole Foods quinoa page: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=142
- The Quinoa Corporation, a commercial quinoa producer, features a number of recipes on its Web site: http://quinoa.net/
Like the conventional tabbouleh, this version made with quinoa contains more veggies than grains. Quinoa is thought of as a whole grain, but technically it’s a high-protein seed native to South America. You can eat this as a salad, wrap a serving in lettuce leaves, tuck a serving in a whole wheat pits, or serve it as a side dish.
MAKES 4 (1-1/4 CUP) SERVINGS
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (or 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced)
- 1 cup diced, seeded, peeled cucumber
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon grated lemon peel
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
- 2 cups shredded or diced roast turkey breast (without skin)
Place the water and quinoa in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and allow the grain to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, lemon juice, oil, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and all but 1 Tablespoon of the scallions. Add the cooled quinoa to the mixture and stir just to blend. Cover and chill.
To serve, divide the tabbouleh among 4 plates. Top with the turkey. Garnish with the reserved scallion. This dish can be made 1 day in advance.
Nutrient Analysis Per Serving:
310 calories, 27 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates (3 g sugars), 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 35 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 420 mg sodium