Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain. The Incas considered this nutritious, protein-rich grain sacred and called it the “mother of all grains.” If you read up on quinoa’s interesting history, you’ll find that during the Spanish conquest of South America, the conquistadores looked down on quinoa as “food for the Indians.” In fact, they banned its cultivation because of the reverence the Incas had for quinoa and their use of it in their native non-Christian ceremonies. The Incas were forced to grow wheat instead. Misguided conquistadores!
In recognition of the indigenous South American people who “have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living well in harmony with mother earth and nature,” the United Nations has declared 2013 as The International Year of Quinoa. Kudos!
You’ll find that quinoa has many applications in your kitchen. Just about anything you can do with rice and other grains, you can do with quinoa. Cooked quinoa has a light, fluffy texture and has a slightly nutty flavor. It makes a perfect side dish as it lends itself to your creative instincts. Quinoa also makes a nutritious, high-protein breakfast cereal. Just cook it up according to directions, and then treat it as you would oatmeal and add berries, nuts, cinnamon, raisins, milk, sweeteners of your choice (brown sugar, honey, agave syrup), etc. I recently made a chicken and sweet potato quinoa stew that Roger and I liked so much it’s made its way into our regular rotation. We just had it for a second time, and we plan to enjoy it all winter long.
Did I mention that it’s gluten free? Even if you’re not sensitive to gluten, it’s a great way to cut down on wheat in your diet.
One of the first dishes I made with quinoa was a simple pilaf using the same ingredients and technique as I have used for many years making rice pilaf. I cooked up a quantity of quinoa using chicken broth instead of water. While that was cooking up, I sautéed a large onion until it was caramelized. Then I added lots of garlic and sautéed it a few minutes more. I added the onion mixture to the quinoa, threw in some parsley—and voilà quinoa pilaf! If you want to go wild, sprinkle some of your favorite cheese on top. The sky’s the limit on how you might want to gussy it up.
Try this tasty dish as a side to chicken, beef, or salmon. You’ll be happy you did!
One year ago: Brussels Sprouts
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Olive oil (enough to just cover the bottom of your frying pan)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 or 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup or so of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Usually, you need to rinse quinoa using a fine mesh sieve. Depending on the quinoa you buy, you may not have to rinse it first. Check the directions on the package to determine whether or not you need to rinse it.
Add the quinoa and chicken broth to a medium-sized pan and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer it until cooked. This will take approximately 15 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, heat up the olive oil in a fry pan until it shimmer, add the onion and sauté the onion for 8 to 10 minutes until it is golden and starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and sauté briefly another 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the onion mixture to the cooked quinoa and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley and serve.