THERE has been much hype over Quinoa (Keen-Wah) over the last couple years, and for good reason. Quinoa is one of the most amazing seeds around. Many people refer to quinoa as a grain, but in fact, it is actually a seed. Sometimes referred to as Goosefoot, quinoa belongs to the same botanical family as beets, kale, chard, and spinach, and can be found in over 120 different varieties. The Incas celebrated the faux-grain and called it the Chisaya Mama, ‘the mother of all grains’. Quinoa originates from the Andeans in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Columbia. For us it is a fairly new staple, arriving in the north American culture around 1970, but quinoa has actually been feeding the people for roughly 7000 years.
Quinoa fits in nicely with the gluten-free craze, as it is in fact gluten-free, but what you may not know is that quinoa is one of the few seeds that is a complete plant protein. This sounds very impressive, right? Hold on though; it is also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. This tasty little seed cooks up fairly easily — a quick soak and rinse and you can basically cook it any way you like. Quinoa can be made into flour, pasta, and cereal. Some people cook it up like rice, some cook it like pasta, some even mix it up a bit and toast it in a skillet before steaming it. I personally find the best way to prepare quinoa is to soak it for 15 minutes in hot water, plop it into a fine-meshed strainer, rinse it out really well, and put it in frying pan with close to double its volume in water for 15 minutes. This method is great for making casseroles, salads, and breakfast cereal.
Overall, quinoa is the most versatile, healthiest alternative to rice. You can add it to almost any dish, and there are tons of great salads you can make with it. So I say, eat quinoa! Here is my favorite quinoa recipe:
Quinoa Mediterranean Salad. Serves 3. Prep time 45 minutes. 2 chicken breasts, 1 red pepper, 1 cup uncooked quinoa, 1 cucumber, 1 can chickpeas, 1 avocado, 1\2 red onion, 2 tablespoons fresh dill, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1\2 cup feta cheese, 1\2 cup black olives, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup BBQ sauce and 2 tablespoons garlic.
Rub the chicken breasts with the garlic and coat in BBQ sauce. Set aside in the fridge. Soak the Quinoa in a few cups of hot water, stir occasionally. After five minutes, rinse the quinoa in hot water in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Then spread the quinoa in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, and add two cups of water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Check the grains a couple times to make sure they are not becoming too soft. The quinoa should ideally still be a little crunchy.
After you put the quinoa on to cook, put the chicken breasts on a BBQ or in a frying pan and cook for about five minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, cut up into bite sized pieces.
While the quinoa is cooking, cut up the cucumber, and red peppers into smaller pieces, dice up the red onion, and mix in the chickpeas. When the quinoa has finished cooking, let sit in the fridge for ten minutes then mix in with the cut up vegetables and chickpeas. Cut up the avocado and put aside as garnish, do the same with the black olives, and cut the cherry tomatoes into halves.
Mince the fresh dill, put in a bowl and add the Dijon mustard, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, whisk well.
When the ingredients are ready, you can build your salad. Add the salad dressing to each portion of salad, add the cut-up chicken, avocado, tomato, black olives, and feta, and enjoy!