January 27, 2010


Quinoa, 'mother of all grains': This delicate grain's high protein content makes it a vital nutritional alternative (Anne Sears Mooney, 1/27/10, Tribune)

"Hailed as the supergrain of the future, quinoa contains more protein than any other grain," wrote Sharon Tyler Herbst in "Food Lover's Companion." "It's considered a complete protein because it contains all eight amino acids."

The World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa at least equivalent to that in milk. It also is a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins, and it contains omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds are gluten-free, making quinoa a flavorful grain alternative for those with gluten sensitivity. [...]

Quinoa cooks to a light fluffy texture in about 15 minutes, increasing four times in volume as it cooks. It can be cooked using a rice cooker or on the stovetop, using one part quinoa to two parts liquid. Either water or broth works fine. It can be added raw to soups and stews 15 or 20 minutes before cooking is completed. It is a wonderful kitchen chameleon — taking on any flavor you add to it.

In appearance, quinoa is frequently compared to couscous, but it has a texture all its own. As it cooks, the external germ, which forms a band around each grain, spirals out, forming a tiny, crescent-shaped "tail." The cooked grain is soft and creamy, while the "tail" has a pleasant crunch, giving quinoa a unique mouth feel that complements its delicate, nutty flavor. Toasting the grain in a dry skillet for 5 minutes before cooking imparts a delicious roasted flavor.

Quinoa is an appropriate repast for any time of day. Prepare it for breakfast as a porridge with nuts, dried fruit and honey. It is delicious as a lunch salad, tossed with herbed vinaigrette and tomatoes and piled in the center of a ripe avocado. For dinner, serve it either as a side dish with fresh fish or meat, or as a main dish or vehicle for a ragu. It is a particularly fine accompaniment to legumes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2010 6:47 AM
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