Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Great and Versatile Quinoa

Have you tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) yet?  It is a fantastic and versatile whole grain that is a complete protein.  One thing that I love about quinoa, besides it's versatility, is it's cooking speed.  It cooks up in about the same time as a pot of pasta, which makes it much faster than some varieties of rice.
I like to buy my quinoa at Costco because I can get organic quinoa in bulk and cheaper there than other stores.  If a recipe calls for rice, pasta, couscous, or barley I will substitute quinoa sometimes (always for barley since that has gluten).  Quinoa can be made savory or sweet, though I can only speak about it as a savory dish since I haven't tried making it sweet yet.  I've heard it can be cooked in fruit juice to give it a sweeter flavor.  I have pretty much always prepared my quinoa using chicken broth or stock.  Like rice, to prepare quinoa mix 2 parts liquid with 1 part quinoa, then bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.  The quinoa is done when the liquid is absorbed and the germ pops out of the ball part.  One of my favorite ways to eat quinoa is warm with fresh cracked black pepper and crumbled feta cheese.  For me it's so comforting.
Now for a few recipes using quinoa.
Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans
(This dish came together when we were rushed and needed to bring a dish to a baseball party. I didn't have time to run to the store, so I used what I had on hand and it went over very well.)
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1-2 zucchinis, grated
1-2 cups black beans (from a can--rinsed--or homemade)
tomatoes coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper
1-2 Grated carrots
Red, yellow, or orange bell pepper diced 
Some Olive oil
Lemon juice (optional)
Avocado, diced (optional)

Prepare the quinoa by mixing the broth and quinoa together in a small pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  While quinoa is cooking, grate the carrots and zucchini, dice the bell pepper, tomatoes, and avocado.  Rinse the black beans if using canned beans.  Toss everything together in a large bowl.  If using the avocado, in a small bowl toss the diced avocado with the lemon juice to keep it from browning then just before serving, toss the avocado in with the rest of the meal.  Serve hot, warm, or cool.  I serve this with some feta cheese as a topping for those who want it. Enjoy!

Quinoa Sorta-Pilaf
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1-2 celery ribs, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, diced
3-4 (or to taste) cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Toasted Slivered almonds or pine nuts (optional)

In a skillet or small pot (I use a small pot that I plan on cooking the quinoa in because I don't want to clean a lot of dishes) warm 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, carrots, and onion and saute for 5-10 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two.  Add the broth/stock and the quinoa to the sauteed vegetables or if you used a saute pan combine vegetables and stock and quinoa in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste as well as the nuts if desired. Serve hot to warm. Again, topping with feta cheese is wonderful.

Quinoa with Ground Beef and Zucchini
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1/2-1 pound ground beef, browned and cooked
1 onion, diced
1-2 zucchinis**, grated
Italian seasoning***
Salt and Pepper
Tortillas (optional)
Cheddar cheese (optional)

Prepare the quinoa by combining the broth and quinoa in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the onion and some Italian seasoning.  Add the grated zucchini to the meat mixture and warm through.  Add the cooked quinoa to the meat mixture.  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  This mixture can be served as is, topped with grated cheddar cheese, or in a warmed tortilla with cheese like fancy tacos.
** If zucchini isn't available, use spinach or kale.  If using spinach, either use frozen chopped (thawed and squeezed out) or fresh.  If using kale, rinse it, dry it, then finely slice it.
*** If you don't care for Italian seasoning or you want to mix things up a bit, try substituting cumin.

Enjoy your quinoa!

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