Quinoa. Grain or seed?

10 Jul

Grains are nutritious, flavorful, and have been around for centuries.  They have been written about in a variety of literature, and I am not just talking cookbooks and magazine articles.  Grains are a featured food in the bible.   If you aren’t into them, they are worth a second look.

Some grains contain gluten, so if you suffer from Celiac disease or have a gluten intolerance, you have to be careful with your grain choice.  One grain that is gluten free is quinoa.  It is yummy and delicious.  I eat it, my kids eat it, and I bring it as a dish to parties sometimes.  It is a fresh and different side dish.  This summer I have been making it into a cold salad.  It has been a big hit, and a dish chock full of nutrients to put alongside the deviled eggs and potato salad.  But what is quinoa?  I will tell you!

Quinoa (pronounced kinwa) is considered a whole grain, but it’s actually a seed.  The history of this food dates far back.  It is documented that the Incas cultivated quinoa centuries ago.  It contains 9 essential amino acids, so it is a whole protein.  There aren’t very many grains that are whole proteins, so this is an excellent source of plant protein.  Quinoa is also rich in fiber, iron, vitamins and minerals.  And it is fat free unless prepared with fat.  Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice.  It can be eaten warm and freshly prepared, or chilled and made into a salad or chilled pilaf.  Throw in some vegetables, and you have an inexpensive and nutrient dense food.  That hits all the bells and whistles.

As I said, I have been preparing it chilled this summer.  This is my simple recipe.  It is easy to make, but even better, you can substitute your favorite vegetables.  Yum!

Amy’s Summer of 2013 Cold Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or stock (vegetable or chicken are delicious!)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 peeled, cored and chopped cucumber
  • 1 small bag shredded carrots
  • 1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces feta or goat cheese crumbles (optional)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put a large saucepan over medium to medium high heat.  Add butter and allow to melt.  Add chopped onion.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add the liquid and quinoa.  Stir and allow it to boil.  When boiling, turn the heat down to low and let this simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste it to make sure it is tender.   It may need a splash of water and another stir.  It should be firm to the bite but not sticky or chewy.

When done, spread out in a large dish to cool, cover and put in refrigerator.  About an hour before serving, mix in the vegetables and cilantro. Sprinkle with vinegar, oil, and if desired, cheese crumbles.  Place back in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Spread the quinoa out to cool quickly.  Pop it into the fridge until ready to use.

Spread the quinoa out to cool quickly. Pop it into the fridge until ready to use.

Vegetables to add to quinoa salad.  Lovely colors and packed with nutrients!

Vegetables to add to quinoa salad. Lovely colors and packed with nutrients!

Mix the cooled quinoa and the fresh veggies.  Mix some olive oil and balsamic vinegar in and refrigerate until use!  Yum!

Mix the cooled quinoa and the fresh veggies. Mix some olive oil and balsamic vinegar in and refrigerate until use! Yum!

Done!  What a colorful dish!

Done! What a colorful dish!

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