Friday, May 15, 2009
It's a grain! No, it's a seed! It's a complete protein!
Quinoa. Pronounced 'keen-wah' -- known in ancient Peru as "The Mother Grain" due to it's near nutritional perfection, is not a grain at all, it's actually the seed of a leafy plant in the same family as spinach, beets, and Swiss chard.
The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine. The protein in quinoa is considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa also contains albumen, a protein that is found in egg whites, blood serum, and many plant and animal tissues. The seeds are gluten-free, and easily digestible which makes this a nutritious and flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity.
You can use quinoa to replace just about any grain, in any recipe, or just serve it as a side dish with a little EVOO (or butter), salt & pepper. Quinoa has a delightful characteristic that is all it's own: as it cooks, the outer germ around each grain twists outward forming a little white, spiral tail, which is attached to the kernel. The grain itself is soft and delicate and the tail is crunchy which creates an interesting texture combination and pleasant "crunch" when eating it.
I buy my organic quinoa by the pound (3.99 a pound) at my local health food store. A pound of quinoa will make approximately 15-20 servings.
Lastly, here's a yummy recipe to get you started enjoying this nutritious, delicious, super food!
Black-Bean and Tomato Quinoa
yield: Makes 4 (side dish) servings
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 45 minutes
* 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
* 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 cup quinoa
* 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
* 2 medium tomatoes, diced
* 4 scallions, chopped
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.
Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.
Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.