Have you ever eaten quinoa, the wonder-food that dates back 5,000 years to the Incas? It’s never been a pantry staple in our household, but after reading more about its nutritional benefits and cooking with it, it’s going to be a regular in our diets. It’s not a grain per se, but rather a seed from a broad-leaf plant that’s in the same botanical family as beets and spinach.
It’s kind of a “pseudograin” in the way that buckwheat and amaranth are. Unlike rice or wheat, or other grains that have to be eaten with legumes in order to complete the protein chain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a complete protein all by itself. It’s easy to digest as well and takes only minutes to prepare and it’s great for people who are gluten intolerant too.
Most people say it has a nutty taste, but I think it’s kind of mild and it takes on the flavors of whatever you combine with it. It has an outer coating called saponin that’s supposed to have a bitter taste, but most commercially sold quinoa already has the saponin removed. If you’re not sure, you can soak it. I rinsed it a few times before using it. You can cook it in water, but I prefer to use chicken broth to give it more flavor.
Mary’s recipes were starting points for me, but I just used ingredients I already had in the house, namely avocados, chickpeas and tomatoes. The chickpeas add even more protein to the dish, giving you another reason not to reach for those chops and steaks. Make sure you squeeze the lime on top at the end. It really makes the dish sing. You can eat this warm, at room temperature or straight out of the fridge, making it perfect to pack in a small container for lunch.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 large carrot, shredded
1 avocado, diced
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 T. olive oil
juice of one lime
more salt and pepper if necessary
Soak the quinoa in a pot of cold water for an hour in order to get rid of the bitter taste. (I was in a hurry and didn’t do this, but instead rinsed it three times in a colander. It worked fine.) Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the quinoa, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff up the quinoa with a fork.
Let it cool slightly, then mix it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Taste it to see if it needs more seasoning.