There is an ancient grain that has resurfaced and gaining in popularity: quinoa, pronounced “keen wah.” Quinoa is known as the mother grain of the Incan empire and is a small flat seed. It is available in an array of colors, from golden to red to black. It is a complete plant protein source and contains all nine of the essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for those on a vegetarian diet.
Although it is not a staple in most kitchens today, it is increasingly showing up in recipes in magazines and other publications. One of its attributes is that it is a grain that gluten-intolerant people can enjoy.
Quinoa has a light fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a great substitute for rice or couscous.
Most boxed/pre-packaged quinoa has already been pre-rinsed for convenience, and cooking instructions therefore suggest only a brief rinse before cooking, if at all. Quinoa seeds have a bitter natural coating called saponin, and it is usually washed off before the grain is sold. If purchasing in bulk, you might want to wash it well before using.
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The basic cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 10 to 15 minutes or until al dente — it should still have a slight bite to it. One could also use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, cooking it the same as rice.
Quinoa can be used in much the same way as rice; it is an excellent addition to pilafs, salads and soups. When I attended a culinary workshop in Scottsdale earlier this year, Chef Brad Petersen served black quinoa in a fruit salad. It gave it a very interesting texture, and the black quinoa was a beautiful contrast to the fruits.
Usually golden quinoa is available in major supermarkets, but I did have difficulty finding black quinoa in our local grocery stores. However, I did locate it at Green Acres, a health food store at 8141 E. 21st St. that sells it in bulk.
I served Chef Brad’s Top-of-the-Morning Fruit Salad in a recent brunch class, and it was received with high accolades. If you are interested in trying quinoa, you might to try this recipe while fresh summer fruits are available. Use any combination of fruit that you like. McClatchy-Tribune The grain quinoa comes in several colors, including black and red.
CHEF BRAD’S TOP-OF-THEMORNING FRUIT SALAD Serves 8. 8 cups fresh mixed fruit (fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, halved seedless grapes, chopped apple, sliced peaches, etc.)
1 cup cooked black quinoa
½ cup pecans, lightly chopped
¼ cup honey
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
½ cup vegetable oil
Combine fresh fruit, quinoa and pecans in a bowl. Whisk together honey, vinegar, salt, nutmeg and ginger root. Slowly whisk in oil. Pour over fresh fruit and serve.