All You Ever Wanted to Know About Quinoa (And More!): Part 1

by Laura Bushey M.A. and Marisa Silverstein H.H.C., A.A.D.P.

 

Why quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has seen a surge in mainstream popularity due largely in part to its high-nutrient profile and to a lesser extent due to the widespread demonization of gluten, found mainly in wheat and wheat containing products.  Quinoa is the only gluten-free crop that has all essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins needed by the human body. It is a rich source for proteins, dietary fibers, magnesium, phosphorus and iron, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which makes it one of the world’s most perfect food!  Tell me more!

 

What is the origin of quinoa?

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Quinoa was domesticated in several locations— Bolivian, Ecuadorian, and the Peruvian Andes between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.  In many ancient highland societies quinoa and potatoes were the staple food and eaten in larger quantities than meat or dairy. To the indigenous Incas, quinoa was such a vital dietary food it was considered sacred often referring to it as, “The Mother Grain”.

Domestic commercial production of quinoa began as far back in the mid-1980s in high altitude locations in the Colorado Rockies with more than 750 tons of quinoa being sold in 1988, according to the National Academies Press.  So, quinoa is not exactly “new” to the food scene.

 

How is it prepared?

Because of its relatively mild flavor and firm texture, much like wild rice, quinoa offers a plethora of meal offerings. It’s also beneficial in cleansing diets. Quinoa can be boiled, added to soups, made into breakfast foods or pastas and even fermented into beer (we’ll leave that for someone else to experiment with!)

 

And here is a great recipe to try!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

 

Ingredients:

 

  • • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a sieve
  • • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • • 1 garlic clove, crushed with a garlic press
  • • 1/2 c. organic, first cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • • organic cucumber slices, finely chopped skins on
  • • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (less sweeter than its hybridized counterpart the grape tomato), halved
  • • 2/3 c. flat or curly leaf parsley**
  • • 1/2 c. chopped fresh mint
  • • 2 scallions or bunch of chives, minced

 

Directions:

 

1. Follow directions to cook quinoa on bag of quinoa.

2. Whisk lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk in olive oil.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

3.  Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool.  Transfer to a large bowl; mix in 1/4 c. of dressing.

4.  Add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, and scallions to bowl with quinoa; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle remaining dressing over quinoa, mix and serve.

 

**Italian, or flat leaf parsley, has flat leaves as its name suggests.   Its leaves contain more essential oils than the curly variety which is why many recipes call for it due to its pronounced flavor.  Curly parsley is generally used as a garnish to add color.  While parsley is used for its flavor, the stems actually contain the most amount of flavor.

 

Stay tuned for more quinoa info in another post!

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