Quinoa: The crown jewel of the Andes

Quinoa

Photo credit: Healthline.com

Quinoa. Heralded as a Supergrain! But is it a grain or a seed? While they tend to be lump together, whole grains, like wheat, barley, corn, rye, and oats, contain the entire kernel: germ, bran, and endosperm.

Conversely, rice is considered a grass, which leaves quinoa as a seed—nuggets of life-force-energy the Incan empire revered as sacred. Even NASA began considering it thirty years ago in its CELSS [Controlled Ecological Life Support System] program for its rapid cultivating yield in a controlled environment, and because of its high protein and unique amino acid composition. Who knows, in the not so distant future when we run out of farmland here on Earth, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that farming has been out-sourced to satellite space stations. Still, quinoa remained under the radar and didn’t gain popularity in the US for another fifteen years. In no short order, its meteoric rise up the food chain can be attributed to its nutrient density of high protein and fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While no single food supplies all the essential life-sustaining nutrients, NASA concluded that “quinoa comes as close as any in the plant or animal kingdom.” Pretty heady stuff for such a tiny seed.

CranberryQuinoaJeweled Quinoa

On its own, quinoa hasn’t a flavor profile, it’s a blank canvas waiting to come to life as a side dish or tossed in a salad. I prepare it using spices, herbs, dried fruit, and nuts for a slightly sweet and savory accompaniment to soups and stews or as a light lunch on the go that can be eaten warm or cold.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-cup quinoa
  • 3-cups water or vegetable stock
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • 1/3-cup dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/3-dried cranberries
  • 2-Tbsp candied ginger sliced
  • 1/4-cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4-cup edamame
  • 1/4-cup sliced almonds
  • 2-tsp garlic powder
  • 1-tsp onion powder
  • 1/2-tsp sea salt
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • 2-Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-Tbsp chopped fresh mint

Preparation:

  1. In a strainer, rinse quinoa.
  2. Bring water or stock to a boil and add quinoa.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 munites or until 90% of the liquid has absorbed. If cooked too long, quinoa will turn mushy. The extra moisture will be absorbed by the dried ingredients.
  4. Remove from heat and add dried fruit, ginger, scallions, nuts, and spices. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir well and set aside.
  5. Stir in fresh herbs at the end and serve. Adding the herbs while the quinoa is still hot, will turn them brown.

Yields (6) 1-cup servings. Nutrient values are based on one serving.

Quinoa 1