Cooking & Health
Cooking With Quinoa - An Ancient Grain
Facts and Trivia
Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"), chenopodium
quinoa, is really not a cereal grain but a member of
the goosefoot familyother members are beets, chard,
spinach and some 200 species of herbs. It is an ancient
grain used in the past by the Incas for its magical powers.
They called it the "Mother Grain" and it was
a staple in their diet and still is for their descendants.
It has been grown for 5000 years in South America. At one
time in Bolivia and Peru the Spanish had led people to
believe feeding quinoa to their children would make them
stupid. So for over 400 years these indigenous people chose
foods of the upper and middle classespasta and white
bread. During this time Bolivia had the highest rate of
infant mortality in its history. As they eventually became
enlightened that their beloved quinoa was healthy, they
resumed using it as food for themselves instead of for
Quinoa was introduced into the U.S.A. by the Quinoa Foundation
and its founders, Steven Gorad and Don McKinley. This corporation
is now located in Torrance, California where it markets quinoa
from Bolivia. This ancient grain grows in extreme ecological
conditions, so today it is readily available. It comes in
several varieties, from black to white, though most is ivory
tan in colour. Uncooked, quinoa is a small fairly round seed
and cooked, it is both soft and crunchy. The germ that rims
each seed in a white curlicue is the crunchy part.
Quinoa is an easy-to-digest, gluten-free grain, particularly
useful for those on gluten-free diets. It has the highest
protein content of any grain (16%). In fact, the World Health
Organization reports it is at least equal to milk in protein
quality. Unlike other grains, it is a complete protein with
an essential amino acid profile similar to milk. Quinoa is
high in lysine, an amino acid that is scarce in the vegetable
kingdom, one reason why it is so popular with vegetarians.
It contains more calcium than milk and many other vital nutrients:
iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins
and vitamin E. Ninety-nine percent of the fat in quinoa is
unsaturated. Quinoa has definitely earned the nickname "Supergrain."
Buying and Cooking
Quinoa can be found in health food stores and some supermarkets
as a whole grain, flour or pasta. It is also used in ready-to-eat
cereals and other processed foods.
Quinoa is covered with a built-in insect repellant called "saponin." This
bitter and soapy-tasting substance has been removed before
packaging, although it is always wise to rinse quinoa well
before cooking as any remaining saponin may aggravate some
allergies or irritate digestion. Use a fine strainer for
rinsing as the seeds are very small. I prefer the mild flavour
achieved with several rinses, although others may like a
stronger taste. Before adding liquid to cook quinoa, try
toasting or sautéing it to further cut down on any
bitter taste and to bring out its nutty flavour.
Quinoa is light and fluffy and has a melt-in-the-mouth quality,
unlike the starchy chewiness of most cooked grains. It can
be substituted for rice, millet or couscous in any recipe.
(Try rice pudding with quinoa instead of rice!) To be sure
quinoa is fully cooked check that the opaque dot in the middle
of the grain is gone and it is completely transparent.
Whole cooked quinoa is good by itself with a little butter,
sea salt and maybe a dash of tamari. It is excellent in soups,
stews, pilafs, salads and in casseroles, particularly combined
with legumes. Tomato and garlic sauces go well over quinoa.
I like to serve it topped with Ratatouille. I use leftover
cooked quinoa in muffins, salads or I freeze any extra to
use in soups.
Quinoa flour, although used primarily by people with wheat
allergies, is an excellent addition to the diet and is easily
made at home in a blender or food processor fitted with a
steel blade. For one cup of flour, add 3/4 cup of quinoa
to blender and process until smooth. To be sure of no whole
grains left, sift through a fine strainer. Use a little quinoa
flour when making quick breads, pancakes and muffins but
remember it has no gluten, so follow gluten-free recipes
or be sure there is plenty of wheat if making yeast breads.
Place grain in water in saucepan and cook over low heat 1520
minutes or until transparent and tender-crunchy. Drain remaining
water, if any. Let stand several minutes, fluff with a fork
and serve plain or with butter, sea salt, dash of tamari or
a sauce such as Ratatouille.
- 1 cup rinsed quinoa
- 2 cups boiling water
JAPANESE QUINOA SALAD*
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 3 green onions, sliced diagonally
- 3/4 cup cabbage or suey choy, sliced fine
- 3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup celery, sliced diagonally
Stir and shake dressing ingredients and let stand while you
prepare the salad. Combine the salad ingredients and toss with
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. honey, melted
- 1 tsp. ginger, grated
Additional ingredients that can complement this salad:
(Recipe adapted from Artesian Acres, a quinoa supplier)
- Chicken, 1 cup cooked and cut into strips
- Shrimp fresh, frozen, or canned, cooked, 1
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup
- Bean sprouts, 1/4 cup
- Chow mein noodles, 1/2 cup
In a skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat (no smoking!).
Add the onion and garlic and stir until well coated by the
oil. Add the zucchini, corn, green pepper and mushrooms. Stir
often to coat the vegetables with oil. Let cook for 810
minutes over fairly high heat. Add tomatoes, herbs, and spices.
Continue to cook over high heat until the mixture bubbles.
As the mixture cooks, the juice from the tomatoes will reduce
and thicken this usually takes about 15 minutes. Serve
hot over quinoa or any grain, pasta, toast, or even in a pita
pocket topped with grated cheese or parmesan. May be eaten
- 1 cup sliced zucchini
- 1 tin of baby corn cobs
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can of tomatoes, undrained
- 1 green pepper, cut in chunks
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, curry powder you
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1/2 cup potato, cubed
- 1/2 cup carrot, sliced
- 1/4 cup celery, sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup of red lentils
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup corn
- 2 cups milk or rice milk
- 1 cup grated cheese (may use soyloaf, nut cheese, or dairy cheese)
- season to taste with sea salt
Simmer quinoa, vegetables, garlic, lentils and seasoning until veggies are
tenderabout 30 minutes. Add milk and cheese. Bring soup to a gentle
boil and serve.
(Recipe adapted from Artesian Acres, a quinoa supplier)
QUINOA AND RICE CASSEROLE
Saute onion and celery in butter until soft. Add in all other ingredients and
bake at 350º F. for 2 hours or until rice is soft and liquid is absorbed.
- 3-1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup quinoa, well rinsed
- 1 cup brown rice, washed and drained
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 3/4 cup celery, chopped (or substitute red or green pepper)
- salt, thyme, tarragon, parsley, oregano to taste
SIMPLY TOASTED SESAME SEEDS AND QUINOA**
Place the sesame seeds in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring,
until seeds turn golden. Remove from heat. Combine quinoa, butter and seeds
in a bowl until butter is melted. Serve.
- Easy and a perfect blend of flavours!
- 2 tbsp. hulled sesame seeds
- 2 cups cooked quinoa ( it should still be warm)
- 2 tbsp. butter
* taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing by Paulette Millis
** taken from The Complete Whole Grain Cookbook by Carol Gelles
References: The Complete Whole Grain Cookbook, by Carol Gelles; The
New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, by Rebecca Wood; Waves of Grain by
Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt; Alive Magazine #216, October
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace
any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant,
counsellor and family life educator. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking
and Healing is available in health food stores or by calling Paulette.
To contact her call (306) 244-8890.