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Dishing on Quinoa
by Elizabeth Norcross

This past winter brought two new and very satisfying foods to my normally winter-challenged table: edamame beans and quinoa.  Delicious and reasonably priced, both are extremely healthy and a dream for vegetarians and vegans. Edamame are 80% mature soybeans grown in clusters on bushy branches, originating in Asia.  Crunchy in texture with a nutty flavor soybeans have been used as a major source of protein for over 2,000 years,

I finally tackled Quinoa, (pronounced kin-wa) a staple food of the Incas and Indians of
Peru that has become increasingly popular here. Thought to be a grain, it’s actually a chenopodium which is a genus of about 150 species of perennials or annual flowering plants known as goosefoots, which occur almost anywhere in the world. It’s a leafy plant like spinach. I wasn’t quite sure how to go at it: boil, sauté, bake? But it’s so easy and versatile! Fluffy and slightly crunchy, it’s high in protein and important amino acids cystine, lysine and methionine. Along with iron, it contains calcium; phosphorus; B vitamins; Vitamin E; and it’s relatively high in fat. Quinoa contains nutrients – which means that it requires a long soaking period as part of the preparation process, although there seems to be some discrepancy in that. The soaking times vary from 5 minutes to 12 hours depending on who you’re reading.

The seeds are covered with saponin, a toxic compound found in soapwort. If nothing else it should be soaked for easier digestion and at best rinsed well. Indian mothers use it as a gruel to stimulate the flow of milk.  It’s an amazingly complex food.

The ratio of water to seeds is 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa for 20 minutes. Soaking means a little less water is needed. Some quinoa is sold pre-soaked. Lower temperature and longer cooking time achieves a fluffy slightly crunchy result. A longer soak with a higher temperature will yield a creamier result. All of the water should be absorbed. If it looks like it isn’t, don’t panic – my first try did not look positive, yet after it sat for a while it was perfect. A Julia Child moment. Cooked quinoa will sit very well in a sealed container for a good week.

This is a vegan chili recipe from the Savvy Vegetarian:

Vegan Chili
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
3 cups water or bean cooking liquid
1 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans (1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 1/2 cup cooked black beans (1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 cup unsalted tomato sauce OR: 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste + 3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp.  olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 celery stalk, diced
1 Tbsp.  (2 - 3 cloves) minced garlic
2 Tbsp. minced jalapeño pepper
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried basil leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaf
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram leaf
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. chipotle pepper powder
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. light molasses
1 Tbsp. Braggs Liquid Aminos, or soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Stovetop directions:

Soak the Quinoa for 5 minutes
Rinse, then drain into a colander
If using canned beans, drain into a colander and rinse well
Peel & mince the garlic and jalapeño pepper
Dice the onion
Wash and trim the celery, slice lengthwise, then crosswise to dice
Seed and dice the red and green pepper
Heat the oil on medium-high in a dutch oven or large sauce pan
Fry the garlic, jalapeno, onion and celery until soft (about 5 minutes)
Add the peppers and fry 5 minutes
Add the spices and herbs, stir 2 minutes
Add the beans, water or bean liquid, molasses, tomato sauce, and quinoa
Bring to boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked
Stir in Braggs or soy sauce, and pepper. Adjust seasonings
Serve garnished with cilantro
Optional: Add a dollop of dairy or non-dairy sour cream to each bowl

Crockpot method

Sauté jalapeno, garlic, celery, and peppers in oil for 5 minutes on med-high
Add spices and herbs, stir 2 minutes
Combine with water, tomato sauce, salt, quinoa and beans in a 6 qt. crockpot
Cover and cook on low for 5 - 6 hours
Add Braggs or soy sauce, molasses, pepper
Serve garnished with chopped clilantro and sour cream (optional)

Use any type or combination of beans that you like; the kidney and black beans worked
wonderfully. Cooking time for the chili is about ½ hour on the stove or 5 hours in the crockpot. Serve with cilantro as garnish.

Mango/Avocado Quinoa Salad

3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup chick peas
1 cup up mango - or chopped slices
1/2 scallions
1 heaping tablespoon chopped cilantro
2/3 cup edamame beans
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1 chopped fresh tomato
1/2 cup minced cucumber
Kalamata olives to taste

Squeeze a lemon and drizzle a nice extra virgin olive oil over it and add a splash of salt. Don’t mix too aggressively, it will get mushy.

This quinoa salad is so fresh, light and delicious. The mango just makes the flavors pop!

Wendy Polisi has a cooking quinoa website. If you go to her website and sign-up
you can download a free 41-page ‘Cooking Quinoa’ cookbook. 

I would suggest keeping your grains, millets and cereals in jars.  Indian meal moths infest foods like this and can be quite difficult to eradicate.

Have a Superlative Spring and as Julia would say:  Bon Appetite!