Quinoa is a high-protein grain that contains all 8 essential amino acids (a rarity in vegetarian foods) and is indispensible when you're trying to tone your arms. It's high in fiber, magnesium, and iron; plus it's gluten-free. And suprisingly, quinoa is as delicious as it is nutritious.
The first time I went to the market looking for quinoa, I asked the Birkenstock-wearing girl working in the bulk section, "Do you have kwi-NO-ah?"
"Do we have what?” she asked, perplexed.
“Kwi-NO-ah” I said again, “it’s a grain."
“How do you spell it?” she asked.
“Q-U-I-N-O-A,” I replied.
“Oh!” she giggled, “You mean keen-WAH.”
“Sorry?” I asked.
“It’s pronounced keen-WAH," she said. Then she proceeded to give me a lesson about Spanish pronunciation, the exploitation of the native peoples of Central America, and the hegemony of the West, ending up with something about Dick Cheney and Halliburton.
Thankfully, I had a bin of steel cut oats to lean on during her talk. When she finished, I asked her, "So which aisle is the quinoa in again?"
Leaning over to pick some steel cut oats off of my fleece jacket, she said, "Oh, we don’t carry quinoa here.”
Fortunately, my old standby, Trader Joe’s, does.
Although it is sometimes substituted for couscous, quinoa is fluffier, nuttier, and crunchier. Like couscous, it is versatile — I use it in everything from salads to soups to stuffings. When I saw this Inca Quinoa Salad from Nirmala Narine’s cookbook In Nirmala’s Kitchen: Everyday World Cuisine, I knew I had to make it.
Why Inca Quinoa Salad? Because the Incas were the first to cultivate quinoa and considered it sacred, even calling it “chisaya mama” which means “mother of all grains." So, it looks like quinoa was on the list of superfoods 6,000 years ago.
So just how super is quinoa? Well, I’m not claiming that you’ll be able to leap over tall buildings after eating it, but it might help you add an inch to those biceps.
Inca Quinoa Salad
Makes 4 side or 2 main servings.
Print recipe only here.
¼ c extra virgin olive oil (I used a little less than 1/8 c)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 small shallot, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp curry powder
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water (maybe more if needed)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
12 endive leaves
To prepare quinoa:
Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve; rinse and drain. (This helps remove some slight natural bitterness from the grains). In a small saucepan, add quinoa and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, and cover until all of the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. (If the water has evaporated before the quinoa is cooked, just add a bit more.) The quinoa will be done when the grains have turned partially white, and the spiral-like germ of the grain is visible. They should maintain a slight crunch when eaten. This will yield about 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa.
In a small skillet, sauté garlic and shallots in olive oil over medium heat, about 2 min. Add the jalapeno and curry powder; heat another 2 min. Remove from heat; let cool. Place in a bowl, and add cooked quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Toss to coat well. Serve in endive leaves or eat on its own.
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