Monday, August 27, 2012

What Do I Do with Quinoa?

You read an article in MSNBC, called Five Foods to Maximize Your Muscle Power. It recommends eating quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quin-what? Or maybe you actually have a package of quinoa lurking in your cupboard and you haven't gotten around to fixing it because you think, what is it and will it even taste good? Or maybe, like me, you have it, you make it very occasionally and you think, ho hum--just another grain.

Well the truth is, quinoa is worth taking another look at. It's one of the few grains that is high in protein. One of the few grains that is rich in all the amino acids needed to build muscle. If you are a vegetarian, quinoa should become a grain in your dietary rotation (like rice, oatmeal, wheat).

But wherever you are in the quinoa awareness continuum, do you have any great ideas about what to do with the stuff? Well, here are a few. If you know of more, please let me know and I will add them.

  • Add in when making bread--it's barely noticeable but adds protein and moisture
  • Cooked, as a cereal, with fruit, yoghurt (as you would eat oatmeal)
  • As the basis for pilaf, pullao, perlo--however you wish to spell it (as you would rice, although quinoa does not fry well)
  • Toss into soup, it adds a richer texture, but hardly any flavor change
  • Add to salad (as a substitute for bulgher in tabouleh, for instance, or like pasta, otherwise)
  • Mixed in with a casserole for extra protein (in pot pies, for instance)

The way my family likes it best is as a pilaf and thrown into soups. But do experiment.

Also, if you like quinoa, there are a few basic things to know.

  • Don't buy in puny little packages at exorbitant prices from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or other well-meaning health-food stores. Quinoa should be cheap and plentiful if you know where to look. I recommend buying it in one- or five-pound packages from (which is a great source, by the way, for lots of spices, dried fruit, and beans for sprouting, too).
  • Rinse before using. But, because the grains of quinoa are so small, you have to use a fine mesh strainer to keep from losing your grains. Rinsing gets rid of risidual bitterness.
  • Cook in a two-to-one proportion, with two parts water to one part quinoa
  • Quinoa works just like rice in a rice cooker
  • You can cook a batch of plain quinoa and freeze it for use a bit at a time for breakfasts.

Quinoa Pilaf a la WhatEye8

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 large carrot, cubed
1 cup peas
Salt to taste

Add all ingredients except for the peas to a pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes. Add the peas, and then turn off the stove and let the pot sit, covered, for fifteen minutes. Fluff before serving.