The first time I recall ever enjoying Quinoa, was in an interestingly delicious salad served at Continuum Winery during a special lunch event that we attended a few years back. I had taken notes and actually had to go look it up following our lunch! It seems like I start noticing the “foodie trends” while dining out there, then I begin seeing them on food network shows; and then finally items start making it onto some of the menus here locally.
As most people do, I seem to cook in “kicks” and create numerous dishes around a new found ingredient. Right now it’s Quinoa, (pronounced KEEN-wah)—a tiny little seed with an ancient history. It is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs. It’s a “Super Food” and contains more protein than any other grain. Termed a “super grain” by nutritionists and food gurus, quinoa is derived from the seed of a plant that is related to spinach. A main staple of the ancient Inca diet, quinoa has just recently made its debut in North America. It’s an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans, or for anyone looking for healthy protein source. It’s also high in iron and calcium, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium and copper, as well as fiber.
The other advantage is that it is simple to prepare. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature! It has a mild, slightly vegetable flavor and cooks up fluffy, like couscous, but is still slightly crunchy. It has a light, slightly nutty taste and a fluffy texture. It makes a tasty cold salad and can be added to soups, stews or as a side dish. It’s extremely versatile!
I’ve been experimenting after finding a few varieties at my local grocery store. I’m always creating dishes based on ingredients that I have on hand and this dish was inspired because I needed a side dish for some lemon, herb Cod that I had planned for dinner.
1 Cup Traditional Quinoa
2 Cups Chicken Stock, I used homemade – thawed from the freezer
1/2 Cup Onions, caramelized left overs
1/2 Cup Yellow Peppers, chopped and sautéed left over
1/2 Cup Combined Fresh Herbs: Basil, Mint & Dill, chopped
Salt & Pepper, to taste
This Quinoa was pre-washed and didn’t require rinsing. Processing methods used in the commercial milling of quinoa usually remove most of the saponins found in the outer coat of the quinoa seeds. Because the quinoa saponins are largely responsible for its bitter taste, it’s a good idea to rinse and rub the seeds in a strainer by running cold water over it while gently rubbing the seeds together in your hands.
Combine one cup quinoa to two cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until the seeds become translucent and the germ of the seed uncoils to form a little “tail.”
Fluff with a fork and combine with the cooked onions and peppers and season with salt & pepper. Stir in the chopped herbs, reserving a bit for a garnish sprinkled on top.
We enjoyed this with a savory beet salad and a splendid glass of 2005 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Mmmmm!