Quinua (Quinoa) plants near Cachora, Apurímac, Peru. Altitude: 3800m
(Photograph: Maurice Chédel)
Okay - what’s the big buzz about this grain (don’t ask me how you pronounce it – everyone I talk to about it says it differently ) – I just think of the name ‘Quinn’ with ‘oa ‘ afterwards – rolls off the tongue nicely)? Now, did you know it’s actually a seed – and is related to beets (yum), spinach (I’m Popeye the Sailor Man – flexing my muscles here), and …. tumbleweed (where’s my Trigger and heel spurs – I’m a wanna be Roy Rogers). The other part of the history of Quinoa (Quinua in Spanish) is that when the European conquest in South America took place, the Inca’s were banned from growing it because of its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. Instead, they were forced to grow wheat!!! Darn foreigners taking over – well – karma is paying them back as the year 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations.
So, history lesson over – what I’ve discovered about quinoa is that not only is it nutrient rich, but also for those of us watching our carb intake and/or spikes in blood sugar (diabetic or not) it's an excellent choice as either a meal in itself or as a side dish. It’s considered a protein by many articles I’ve come across in my research – and has all the essential amino acids in it which other grains are missing. Along with that, it’s higher in iron and potassium and is a good source of B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, zinc and fiber.
On the weekend at my yacht club I belong to, we had a Pot Luck dinner (it was our Founder's Day - when the idea of the club was formed back on June 24th, 1958). I always try to bring something different to get folks to try something different – last time I brought some dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). They went over alright with the crowd there – bit of hesitation –many jokes about smoking a cigar still rings in my ears (really – they do look like cigars) – but they did get eaten up – though with some hesitation from folks that are your usual meat ‘n potato eaters. This time, I tried a quinoa salad on them, thinking that it would be picked over and leftovers would remain for my DH and myself to eat on the other 2 days were were staying at our floating cottage (it was a long weekend here in Quebec – gotta make the most of our summer here in the northern climate of Canada). I placed my usual placard showing what was in the food (I always do this incase of food allergies) – and viola – the bowl was basically licked clean – and I received so many compliments that I told them I’d post the recipe for them. So my friends at Stormont Yacht club – the little gem along the Saint Lawrence Seaway in Ontario – this recipe is for you!
***** FATCATANNA'S QUINOA SALAD *****
This recipe is a compilation of various recipes I’ve come across – and if you are like me – just wing it – and it’ll always come out great. The secret to this recipe is to add the quino at the END of the vegetables being thrown in the marinade. My other suggestion, deseed your tomatoes. I do this due to folks having problems sometimes with seeds (my Mum has diverticulitis ). I also do this more for how the final product looks and makes the salad less “mushy”. Again, it’s up to you, and whatever way you do it – let us know how it turns out!
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- ¼ cup olive oil (I just blop it in – so is probably more)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper (use whatever amount you like)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ cup lemon Juice (I love lemons – so I tend to put in abit more)
- 3 tomatoes, diced (again – I deseed mine – you can use more if you wish)
- 1 cucumber, diced (I used Lebanese cucumbers due to low seed count – I yield about 1 ½ cups – but again – you can use more or less depending on what you like).
- 2 carrots, grated (about 1 ½ cups – it’s up to you the chef!!!)
- 2 bunches green onions, diced (I use more, and actually tried out purple onions in my latest recipe
- 1 cup or more of coriander chopped (or you can use parsley – whatever you have in your garden or on hand in the fridge)
- ¼ cup of fresh mint chopped (if you don’t like mint – don’t use it – it was in the version I made for SYC)
- 300 grams of feta cheese, crumbled in with fingers (you can use more if you wish – I usually do).
- In a saucepan, bring water to boil. Add quinoa (see note below) and a pinch of sea salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or until liquid is mainly all absorbed). Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.
- While the quinoa is cooking, in a large bowl (and I mean large since I like to toss my salad around so it gets good coverage), combine olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, carrots, coriander (or parsley), mint, feta. Stir in cooled quinoa.
To increase the protein to make the salad a main meal – I’ve thrown in black beans – about a cup and a bit to the salad. Again, use your imagination, and whatever you have on hand in your fridge!
NOTE: As one reader pointed out (thanks Moggy B - my "step sister") - some people find quinoa has a bitter aftertaste. To avoid this, simply rinse the qwuinoa in a fine mesh strainer - then add it to the boiling water at that point. I know for myself - I don't rinse it - but it depends on how sensitive your taste buds are. Also, to check out the full nutritional facts - click on this link - very VERY informative website!