Quinoa Tabbouleh - © Randy Mayor via cookinglight.com

Whole Grains: Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the most popular ‘new’ Whole Grains. It’s found a home in the diets of Vegetarians and Vegans as well as with food-forward diners of all stripes. And it’s becoming a headline starch on the menus of chic restaurants You’ll be surprised at what you can do with it!

Quinoa Tabbouleh - Large - © Randy Mayor via cookinglight.comQuinoa Tabbouleh: You can use Quinoa in place of Rice,
Bulgar or noodles in almost any dish…

We showed you a picture yesterday of Quinoa and Brown Rice boiled in meat broth. It’s nutty, flavoursome and good for you! It can take any number of forms on your plate, But many folks use Quinoa as a simple side, like plain Rice or Boiled Potatoes.

Where has it been all our lives?

Quinoa was first domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago in the South American Andes, in what is now Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. It only started to come north in quantity in the last ten to fifteen years. It’s described as ‘nutty’ in flavour and can have a texture that is  creamy, fluffy or crunchy depending on how you cook it. It looks a lot like Couscous, but Couscous is not a gran at all, rather a pasta, and it does not possess the broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fibre and proteins Quinoa offers.

What is it, exactly?

Wikipedia notes that Quinoa is not a real cereal grain, but a pseudocereal – that’s because it’s not really part of the grass plant. It’s related to Amaranth, another ‘Whole Grain’. But its family history doesn’t mater. Ouinoa is extremely healthy – one of only a few ‘Whole Grains’ that contains all nine essential amino acids and, therefore, delivers a complete protein to the diner. That’s a boon for Vegetarians and Vegans, who otherwise must consume a pulse, or bean, alongside a grain to get a complete protein in their diet.

Quinoa is Gluten-free and the Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certification authority, has certified it as kosher for Passover. What more could you ask for?

How do you use it?

Quinoa is a small, round weed that comes in a variety of colours, most commonly yellow, red and black. There is some variance in flavour from colour to colour but not so much as to consider each colour of Quinoa a separate item.

All Quinoa should be thoroughly rinsed before cooking, as it comes, naturally, with a bitter surface coating which is thought to have evolved to deter birds from eating it. Some devotées of the stuff insist you must let it soak it in twice the volume of plain water for five to ten minutes, draining and rinsing it before cooking. Most packaged Quinoa comes pre-rinsed, but don’t assume anything.

You can Toast Quinoa lightly, like you might do Spices or Sesame Seeds, to bring out even more nutty flavour.

To cook Quinoa, just soak/rinse as above and proceed like Rice. For each Cup of Quinoa, bring to a boil 1 1/2 cups water with a good pinch of Salt. Add the Grain and simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Do not open the lid! At the end of cooking time, fluff with a fork and serve.

‘Plain’ Quinoa is often served with a dressing of melted Butter or Oil plus Salt and Pepper, and other flavourings. It’s up to you.

It is also eaten at breakfast with Milk, like Oatmeal or Meusli, topped with Dried Fruit, Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup and/or Cinnamon. Again, create your own tradition.

Fancier presentations…

Cooked Quinoa and Quinoa Flour can be used in any number of ways, just like regular Flour or Rice Flour. Just remember, it has no Gluten, so don’t try to make Bread or Pasta with it. You can make Cookies with it, though, including Pancakes and Dumplings. The Rule: You can bake just about anything that is leavened with Baking Powder using Qionoa. Experiment ’til you’ve nailed the right amount of Baking Powder for each recipe!

Cooked Quinoa can be the base for any number of Asian-style dishes, including Fried ‘Rice’ and savoury ‘Rices’. You can do anything with Cooked Quinoa that you can do with Rice: Stuffed Tomatoes, Peppers or Zucchini, ‘Rice’ Balls, ‘Rice’ Cakes… And you can also use it in place of other binders in Meatloaf and Meatballs, Burger Patties and other Ground Meat favourites. Don’t overlook the obvious: Quinoa makes an ideal choice for inclusion in Veggie Burgers!

Most often, though, Fancy Quinoa dishes rely on adding Veggies, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Herbs and Spices to the basic starch and are served as sides dishes.

More direct substitutions…

  • Use Cooked Quinoa in Tabbouleh Salad in place of Bulgar.
  • Use it in a Southern Breakfast or Main Dish in place of Grits.
  • Use Quinoa or Quinoa Flour to crust Chicken, Fish or other meats.
  • Do a Quinoa Bowl like you’d do a Noodle Bowl.
  • Use Cooked Quinoa in Casseroles in place of Noodles or Rice.
  • Use Cooked Quinoa in warm and cold Salads in Place of Noodles or Rice.

There’s no excuse…

…To wait any longer to try Quinoa! Once you’ve become familiar with it, it will be a staple in your kitchen, too…

~ Maggie J.