One of my vegetarian staples is the ancient South American grain-like crop quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). I use it in place of rice or couscous in stir fry recipes or other accommodating dishes. I have several quinoa specific recipes too. My secret to flavorful quinoa is cooking it in vegetable broth (or almond milk, depending on the recipe) instead of water. I love the nutty flavor and slightly crunchy consistency it offers.
Quinoa isn’t technically a grain. It’s actually a seed that expands when boiled. Its protein content is much higher than typical grains, making it a great addition to a vegetarian diet. Quinoa is considered a complete protein and has a very balanced essential amino acid structure. It is a good source of fiber and is also high in magnesium and iron. Additionally, it is gluten-free. No wonder the ancient Incas called it the “mother of all grains”!
Don’t be afraid of this versatile little seed. If it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time you cook it, try another recipe or tweak the one you are using. If it isn’t cooked enough, it can be too crunchy and not very flavorful. If its overcooked, it can become mushy and sticky.
The average cook time for boiling/simmering quinoa in liquid is about 20-25 minutes. It is usually done when most of the liquid has absorbed and the seed has “popped” revealing a curly q tail. If all of the liquid has absorbed and you don’t notice a change in the shape of the seed, just add more water and continue to simmer. If it is too sticky, lower the heat and add more water until it is the right consistency.
Here are three recipes to try. One is sweet and savory, one is spicy, and one is more breakfast/dessert like. Enjoy!
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups organic vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry
1 1/2 cups finely diced apples
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in broth, quinoa, salt, curry and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Fluff with a fork.
Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples to pan and sauté 7 minutes or until apple begins to brown. Add apple, almonds, and pepper to quinoa, tossing to combine. Serve warm.
(Pork chops would go nicely with this if you are so inclined…and it doesn’t happen to be meatless monday).
Recipe: Quinoa with Black Beans
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 or 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (1-2 depending on if you want it to be more bean-based or quinoa-based)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and saute until lightly browned.
Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir frozen corn into the quinoa mix and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.
(I like to serve this with quesadillas or fish tacos).
Recipe: Quinoa Porridge
3/4 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Heat a saucepan over medium heat and measure in the quinoa. Season with cinnamon and cook until toasted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Pour in the almond milk, water and vanilla and stir in the brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then cook over low heat until the porridge is thick and grains are tender, about 25 minutes. Add more water if needed if the liquid has dried up before it finishes cooking. Stir occasionally, especially at the end, to prevent burning.
***If you buy “unrinsed” quinoa, follow the soaking directions on the package to remove the bitter husk. Most common brands come pre-rinsed.