Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keen on Quinoa

It's pronounced 'keen-wah'. And it's my new favorite food!

A couple of months ago I decided to go to a holistic nutritionist for dietary advice. I'd been to a regular (normal?) nutritionist a couple of years previous, but figured a different perspective on what one should eat was worth the investment. Well, as it turns out, my new nutritionist had much advice not only on what to eat, but also on what not to eat. Amongst the things she suggested I eliminate: processed dairy, gluten, soy-based drinks and cereals. She also suggested I cut down on my meat consumption.

Well, well, then what's a gal to eat? I inquired, having seen most of three of the four food groups go on the chopping block. Don't get me wrong, I love fruits and vegetables, but one cannot live on these alone - unless the one we speak of is a fruit fly.

Unsurprisingly, she was armed with recipes and suggestions for clean eating. No, I would not have to resort to eating soap. I could enjoy legumes, rice, kamut (I've still not ventured here), squash and other wholesome foods. And to ensure I got all my protein requirements, she suggested whey protein powder for my daily smoothie.

But I would prefer to get my protein from whole foods, I informed her. And as much as I enjoy legumes, I don't want to eat them day in and day out. That's when she mentioned 'qunioa' - actually she raved about it. It's South American in origin, and the Inca called it 'mother food', as it was the staple of their diet. It's the seed of a plant similar to spinach and quite tasteless - it picks up the taste of whatever it is cooked with.

Apparently it's the best source of protein in the vegetable kingdom and packs a punch of amino acids. It's also a really high word score in Scrabble.

I was sold. I went home, hopped onto and found a recipe that sounded manageable and quite delicious. I wouldn't normally use this blog to share a recipe, but this one is too good to not share. I think I've made it at least six times in the last two months and each batch makes 10, yeah, a lotta quinoa! It is an excellent potluck recipe - vegetarians will hold you in great esteem if you show up with a bowl of quinoa salad, and it also goes over well at dinner parties (as you can see by the picture of my friend, Erin, enjoying a spoonful of the good stuff).

Here's the original recipe, which can also be found here:

Qunioa Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

  1. Bring the quinoa, salt, and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Once done, scrape into a large bowl, and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Stir in the green onions, celery, raisins, cayenne pepper, vegetable oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend. Stir in the cilantro and pecans before serving.

Here's where I'm going to be one of those annoying cooks and say that you don't have to follow the recipe. The celery and green onions are optional/interchangeable with other things like asparagus or whatever is green and will last a few days in a salad! The fruits and nuts are also interchangeable - throw in some dried cranberries, apricots, almonds or whatever.

As for the oils and such - DO NOT skip on the sesame oil. I would always choose olive oil over vegetable oil. I also enjoy the cilantro very much, but that's a personal taste. I didn't have the spices on hand when I made this the first time, so I threw in some cumin and curry powder and it turned out well. I also did not have lemon juice once and tossed in some maple wine. Oh, and I usually squeeze a bit of honey in (not much, just a bit).

Make this recipe. Seriously. It is GOOOD. Quinoa can be bought at a health food store or the bulk barn. I like to make it with red quinoa b/c it's pretty.

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