Post # 88 Quinoa

January 23, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It’s pronounced  KEENWA and it’s been called the grain of the gods.  Laughably, one of its closest relatives is the tumbleweed.  It originated in South America in the Andes mountains.  It’s one of the few grains that is a complete protein and so can replace meat-based proteins by itself.  It’s also very high in calcium so can be used beneficially by those who are lactose intolerant, or just don’t like milk (like me.)  It was first domesticated in 400 bc but was eaten long before then.

The Incas referred to it as the “mother of all grains” because it could stave of starvation and was so versatile and flexible.  They held it sacred, and the king would sow the first seeds every year using gold tools.  When the spanish conquered the Incas, they looked at quinoa as slave food and according to history, they actively suppressed its cultivation.  Luckily it didn’t die out, and was “rediscovered” last century.

Quinoa cooks very quickly, in as little as ten to fifteen minutes.  It can be used as a substitute for any grain in nearly any recipe, but mostly I used it in place of rice dishes.  It can be added to soups, salads, or stand on its own as a side dish.  It can be boiled, or sauteed, or baked, cooked in nearly any way imaginable.  It has a light nutty flavor when it’s on its own, but picks up the flavors of whatever it’s cooked with.

When choosing quinoa in the store, be sure to find the box that says it’s rinsed.  Quinoa has a high saponin factor, like a waxy outer layer.  If this isn’t rinsed off, it has a laxative effect.  You can rinse it at home but it takes several minutes rinsing in a fine mesh strainer, or cheesecloth.  It’s simpler to buy it pre-rinsed.  There are also different varieties from the standard white, to red, to black.  Each has a slightly different flavor so it’s worth the time to find out which you like best.  I generally stick to the white variety unless I want to add color for visual impact.

quinoa 01

After it’s cooked, quinoa turns translucent and shows a small dark spot in the center.

quinoa 02

As I said earlier, quinoa can be used as a replacement for any grain in nearly any recipe.  It also makes a highly nutritious sprout (remember post #55?), but I’ve never tried this myself.  Quinoa is also making an appearance on store shelves in side dish mixes.  I’ve tried one or two of them and they’re good, but I prefer my own concoctions to prefab.

Here’s my favorite way to make quinoa.  I call it “Quinoa Salad”.  Inspired, right?

Cook a half cup of quinoa by putting 1 and 1/2 cup cold water in a pan.  Rinse the quinoa if it hasn’t been done.  Put the quinoa in the pan and turn on heat to medium.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.  Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the grain is cooling, chop tomatoes, cucumber, onion, carrots, sugar peas, and cheddar cheese into small, bite-sized chunks.  Chop fresh parsley, cilantro, and mint.  Place all veggies, cheese, and herbs into a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.  Toss to coat liberally.  Add quinoa and mix completely.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve cold with a squeeze of fresh lemon just before serving.  I usually serve this with grilled chicken, but you can serve it with anything.  The key is to make sure there are enough vegetables and cheese for the amount of grain.



  1. He especially enjoys one that is loaded with veggies.
    Place sliced tomatoes and Arugula on top of the Mozzarella.
    That is, until I thought about making a pizza
    using my cast iron skillet.

  2. Like many people, I like to get a prepared carry out pizza occasionally.
    Remember to pre-heat your oven for at least 1 hour.
    Add the water a teaspoon at a time so it’s not over done.

  3. Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

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