Quinoa – The New Darling!

Tofu asparagus & Red Pepper Stir-Fry over QuinoaThere have been countless articles in the newspapers here at home and today I read another article in one of the food magazines about the ‘new’ kid on the block to hit superstar status.  So….. if I can make eating healthy vegetarian dishes ‘fashionable’, ‘in ‘vogue’, the ‘in-thing’ the next ‘big hit’ and move folks toward a wholefoods plant based diet then I’m all for it.   I will churn out quinoa recipes from mufins to pilafs.

Here is a take on what is being written about this humble grain. High in the Andes a food revolution has been quietly taking place. Production and exports of quinoa, pronounced (keen wah) have grown fivefold.  It’s the new darling of the culinary world. Long ago dismissed as ‘food for Indians’ as the Spanish conquistadors put it, and traditionally eaten only by the South American poor, quinoa was boldly and proudly embraced last year by Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, who declared 2012 theYear of Quinoa.  Now the United Nations has gone one step further and made 2013 the International Year of Quinoa with the aim of focusing the world’s attention on this protein-rich Andean staple.  It’s fair to say that the organic food shops of the developed world have already been doing their bit in recent times to publicise quiona’s qualities and in the past few years the farmers of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru have been making hay while the sun shines so to speak.

Health Benefits – Overall Nutrient Richness
Perhaps the most striking health benefit provided by quinoa is its overall nutrient richness. When the nutrient composition of this food is analyzed in depth, the results are unusual and striking. While quinoa can be eaten in the same way as a grain, or ground into flour like is so commonly done with grains, it lacks some important nutritional shortcomings of grains.  One of the shortcomings overcome by quinoa involves its protein content. Most grains are considered to be inadequate as total protein sources because they lack adequate amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine. The relatively low level of both lysine and isoleucine in the protein of grains is what causes these amino acids to be considered as the limiting amino acids (LAAs) in grains. In other words, these LAAs prevent grains from serving as complete protein sources in our diet. By contrast, quinoa has significantly greater amounts of both lysine and isoleucine (especially lysine), and these greater amounts of lysine and isoleucine allow the protein in quinoa to serve as a complete protein source.

Quinoa is delicious and has such versaitlity.  From making Pilaf’s, Muffins, Protein Bars, Croquettes, Burgers or added to Soups, the possibilites are endless.  Here are a few of my favourite ways to use this delicious tasting grain.

Quinoa with Salad Greens & Radishes
1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
2 cups water
Fresh salad greens such as rocket, watercress
1 small bunch of red radishes, very thinly sliced
Basic Salad Dressing (see below)

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a pan and simmer on a very low heat 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed.  Remove to a large bowl and leave to cook then fluff up with a fork. Add the fresh salad greens and radishes to a large salad bowl and pour over some of the dressing.  Stir in the quinoa and serve.

Basic Salad Dressing
1 handful parsley
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Umeboshi Vinegar
1 tbsp Shoyu
2 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice

Place all the ingredients into a blender.  Adjust ingredients according to taste.  Store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator and keep for up to 5 days.

Mediterranean Quinoa
1 cup yellow quinoa or ½ cup yellow and ½ cup red
2 cups vegetable stock
Pinch sea salt
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion finely diced
2 spring onions finely diced
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Juice squeezed from ½ lime

Toast quinoa in a heavy based pan over a medium flame for about 5 minutes until it crackles and becomes aromatic. Transfer to a sieve and rinse under cold water to remove the saponin outer coating which can be bitter tasting. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic, onion and sea salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the quinoa and stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the toasted pumpkin seeds, diced spring onions, lime juice and fluff gently with a fork. Serve with a crisp green salad.

In good health



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