For almost 6000 years, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)—known as the sacred grain of the Incas—has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia. And yet quinoa is not a grain but rather the seeds of the fruit of a colorful broadleaf plant related to spinach, beets and chard.
2013 the International Year of Quinoa
Moments ago while researching quinoa, I learned that in December of last year the United Nations declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa as a way to “heighten public awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural properties of quinoa.”
Quinoa has also received the United Nations classification as a “super crop” due to its quite remarkable nutrient profile:
- A complete protein
- Contains all eight essential amino acids
- Rich in vitamins E, B2 and B6, folic acid, biotin, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese and chloride
- Free of cholesterol and trans fat
- Contains high levels of natural antioxidants, mainly vitamin E
- Easy to digest
Satisfying and versatile
By itself, quinoa has a somewhat nutty flavor and a fluffy, creamy and slightly crunchy texture. It is satisfying and versatile and adaptable to meals throughout the day. Enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner in salads and soups or as a side dish. High protein quinoa flour can be used in addition to or along with wheat flour or other gluten-free flours in pasta, pancakes, cookies, muffins, etc.
What about the bitterness?
Perhaps you tasted quinoa years ago and were dismayed by its bitterness. That was certainly a problem when quinoa was first introduced into the U.S. I remember being disappointed with quinoa when I first cooked it as I only learned afterward that it needed a thorough washing. Washing it well was key to removing the bitter and soapy tasting saponins that coat and protect the seeds from hungry birds.
But that was so last century. The good news is that for quite a number of years now quinoa has come to us prewashed. It cooks up deliciously without even a hint of bitterness. Even though prewashed, I do rinse quinoa just as I do with grains.
How to Cook Quinoa
Yields about 6 cups of quinoa
Rinse and drain the quinoa and add it to a large pot along with the water and a large pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat so that the water simmers. Cook for 17 minutes, until the water is completely absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit in the covered pan for 5 minutes.
Enjoy quinoa hot with butter or olive oil, with maple syrup and milk, or in any number of recipes. When you want quinoa to cool quickly, i.e. to use in this Curried Quinoa Salad, use a rubber spatula to spread the quinoa out on a cookie sheet.
This is a somewhat large recipe, but as quinoa stores well in the fridge for a number of days, it’s just as easy to prepare a large batch as a small one. Quinoa can quickly be reheated in a steamer basket over simmering water.
This is certainly one of my all-time favorite salads—high in both nutrition and flavor. Curried Quinoa Salad is a great dish for traveling, picnics, weekday lunch and even breakfast. If you happen to have any preserved lemons in your fridge, they’ll add an additional burst of flavor to the salad.
Makes approximately 12 cups
2 cups quinoa (uncooked)
¾ cup blanched slivered almonds
3 cup grated carrots
2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup dried cranberries (fruit sweetened)
¾ cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons rinsed and finely minced peel of a preserved lemon (optional)
1 cup plain nonfat yoghurt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Twenty twists freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the quinoa according to the recipe above, then spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool quickly.
If you’ve used the food processor to grate the carrots and chop the parsley, then go ahead and prepare the dressing in the food processor also. Otherwise, use either a blender or a food processor.
Put all the ingredients except for the oil in the food processor or blender and process until smooth. While the machine is running, slowly pour in the olive oil until the dressing comes together.
When the quinoa is cool, stir it into the bowl with the vegetables mixture. Gently stir in the dressing. Season the Curried Quinoa Salad to taste with additional salt and pepper, as needed.
Notes: for crisper almonds, add them to the salad just before serving.
The dressing will vary in color and flavor depending on the curry powder you use. I use a combination of Penzeys Sweet Curry Powder (1 tablespoon) and their Maharajah Style Curry Powder (1 teaspoon).
Click for a printer-friendly recipe without images