Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quinoa ~ Nature's Gift

Always on the search for new food experiences I came across references to a product that is newish to North America but one of nature’s earliest gifts. Grown as a food staple in the Andes for 6,000 years, easily cultivated and insect resistant…. 
“Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and followed in third place by maize. In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one's needs than wheat protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest”. (wikipedia)
Available in bulk at Whole Foods, Costco ('tru-brands') or from health food stores (more expensive), some locations carry products that are gritty and need to be picked over. Tedious work, and can be avoided if you buy from better shops, although you may find closer sources. Bought some at Granville Island that I had to throw out! This recipe is a family favourite, summer or winter, filling and great as part of a healthy lunch or side dish. A little goes a long way.
Quinoa Salad

1 cup Quinoa (keen-wa)
1 7/8 cups Water
1 tbsp Olive oil (light or extra virgin)
3 tbsp Lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup Wild rice, cooked (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea salt or Herbamare
1 Large, firm tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 Carrots, finely grated
1 Small zucchini, small dice, or grated and drained
2 Celery sticks, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants(optional)

Rinse quinoa under running water. Use a fine strainer as grains are very small. Add to cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to just above minimum and cook for 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat, fluff the grains to separate, re-cover and let sit until cooled.
In the meantime, rinse and prepare vegetables.
Add all the ingredients, mix together by tossing with a fork. Serve.
Will store for a few days but probably won’t last that long.

Be creative. You can add other veggies in season, fresh garden peas, radishes, green tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, chopped dried fruit, etc.
Quinoa has a light, nutty flavour. There are lots of recipes available. The seeds germinate in cold water in two to four hours and can be eaten raw. Be sure to rinse well as the seeds have a natural coating that may taste a little bitter but is not harmful. Enjoy.
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