QUINOA, pronounced keen-wah, is a seed of the Goosefoot plant which was originally cultivated in South America as far back as 3000 B.C. Beets, spinach, swiss chard, and lamb's quarters are all relatives of quinoa. Quinoa is used like a grain because it cooks so similarly to a grain. The thing that makes it stand out from a typical grain, like rice or barley, is the protein content. Quinoa is considered a complete protein and is gluten free so it is a great alternative grain from a health standpoint (which my good friend Dr. Crystal will address I am sure).
Quinoa is the size of millet but it has a flat shape. When it is cooked there is a little white curl that springs off the side that gives it its distinctive look and texture; the main part of the grain is soft but the curl has a bit of a crunch to it. There is a resin like coating on the grain that gives it a bitter flavor so before cooking quinoa it is important that it is rinsed. As quinoa has become more widely known and used the production and packaging of it has become more commercial and so the process of rinsing is mostly taken care of before you purchase it. There will be instructions for rinsing the quinoa repeatedly on the package but I must admit that I typically skip this step and have had no bitter tastes in my final product.
I recently discovered that you can buy quinoa at Costco, so on my next trip I plan on picking up a package and replacing the basmati rice I would typically use with stir frys or soups with the quinoa. This will be a great way to get more protein into my toddler's diet, assuming he will eat it (although I have discovered he will eat anything as long as I feed it to him with chopsticks). The recipe I am going to share with you today is a cold salad and is a modified recipe from epicurious.com. The original recipe is called Quinoa and Bulgur Salad with Feta, we were trying to avoid wheat for the meal that I was preparing that evening so I left out the bulgur and added some more vegetables.
Quinoa Salad with Feta (makes 4 side dish servings)
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh mint, minced
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and cut into slivers
- 4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
- 4 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (1 cup)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
Cook the quinoa as you would cook rice: boil the water and add the quinoa then reduce the heat to low and cover, cook for 20 minutes
When the quinoa is done spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool.
Meanwhile whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, and pepper and set aside.
Boil 3-4 cups of water then add the frozen peas, when it comes to a boil again add the broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is al dente. Drain.
Now toss it all together, the cooled quinoa, olive oil mixture, broccoli and peas, radishes, olives, and feta.
This can be served as is or served on top of a green salad.