Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) a species of goosefoot (an annual flowering plant), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. Quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato. Now a days, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). And unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.
In the year 2011, when eating organic is all the rage, Quinoa is considered a “super food.” Quinoa has an addictive nutty flavor, cooks up quicker than rice, and can be used to make pilafs, risottos, salads, soups, and even desserts. The simplest way is to cook quinoa like pasta: Fill a large pot or saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil. Add just about any amount of quinoa, turn the heat to low, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the water and allow the quinoa to cool.
Tonight for dinner, I ventured into quinoa territory. I made a dish of chicken, vegetables and quinoa. Typically when foods are super healthy, what they have in nutrition, they lack in taste. I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case with quinoa. Somewhere between rice, risotto and rice pudding, you find quinoa. I encourage you to experiment with quinoa. There are countless recipes out there, and even more nutritional benefits!
QUINOA WITH CHICKEN AND VEGGIES
1 cup quinoa (I found this in Whole Foods with the rice)
3 cups water
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, chopped
2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
*cook as you normally would, and cut into bite sized pieces
1. Bring the quinoa, water and 1 pinch of salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Once done, drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook until the garlic softens and the aroma mellows, about two minutes. Add the red pepper and corn; continue cooking until the pepper softens, about five minutes. Season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for one more minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and quinoa and green onions. Serve hot or cold.
Makes 4 large servings