Continuing with our quasi superfood theme, now is the time for quinoa to shine. Also hailing originally from South America (so was amaranth), quinoa was called the mother of all grains by the Incas. Technically it is not a whole grain, rather the seed from the goosefoot plant.
It has gained notoreity as an excellent plant-source of complete protein. Wheat and rice are low in lysine, which is why they need to be paired with beans to get the complete set of amino acids to form protein. It is also high in fibre, B vitamins, gluten-free and supposedly easy to digest.
I have cooked with quinoa before, but I had had issues with it in my pre-blogging days. You need to wash it thoroughly before you cook it to remove the soapy/bitter-tasting saponins that are naturally present in the seed. Most of the time, this has already been removed during its processing, but I am convinced I had a bad batch once (I blame Bulk Barn!) and I shunned quinoa for quite some time. Now that I buy organic quinoa through Bob’s Red Mill, I haven’t had any problems.
It is easy to substitute quinoa anywhere you’d use rice and just as easy to prepare (2:1 boiling water:quinoa and simmer for 12-15 minutes). You can even make it in a rice cooker.
Here, I made a Mexican quinoa salad bursting with flavour from tomatoes, green onions and black beans with a minty-lime vinaigrette. The flavour depends entirely on the flavour of your fresh tomatoes. The dressing is a bit subtle, but a nice supporting cast. The salad is deceivingly filling, so I ate it as a main course salad.
Now I know I just told you how easy it is to boil your quinoa, but the directions for this salad were courtesy of Gourmet (July 2007). First, you partially simmer your quinoa and finish the cooking process with steaming. This made the most fluffy quinoa I have ever had. If you have the time, this is the ultimate way to prepare quinoa.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring quinoa, to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red and white dishes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods, featuring quinoa.
Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa Salad
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup quinoa
2 cups black beans or 1 (19-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1. Whisk together lime zest and juice, oil, maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
2. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.
3. 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.
4. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.