The ancient Incans revered quinoa as “the mother grain.” Modern-day nutritionists often refer to it as “the supergrain of the future.”
Pronounced “KEEN-wah, “ quinoa sounds like a close cousin of the kumquat. But the light, fluffy and vaguely crunchy seed actually resembles couscous in size, texture and funny-sounding name.
Far more nutritious than couscous, quinoa contains nine essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. It has more calcium than milk. It’s also a very good source of manganese and a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and copper. A 1/4 -cup serving packs 6.5 grams of dietary fiber.
The Star’s Quinoa Vegetable Salad is a delicious way to introduce this high-energy grain into your family’s diet. The spinach, tomatoes, carrot and peas add plenty of sound nutrition as well as a pleasingly colorful backdrop for the rather dull, gray-brown color of cooked quinoa.
As versatile as rice, quinoa takes just 15 minutes to cook and is a gluten-free food. Although it has been available commercially in this country only since the ’80s, it has quickly become a staple of health food stores. Quinoa is increasingly available in supermarkets.
Shopping tip: The Star’s testers found Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa, a popular brand, available at natural foods stores, such as Whole Foods, and supermarkets, such as Hy-Vee’s Health Market.
Preparation tip: Quinoa should be carefully rinsed 5 to 10 seconds in a fine mesh strainer to remove the natural but bitter, resinlike coating. While today’s processing methods remove most of the coating, an additional rinse will ensure all the powdery residue is removed.
Storage tip: Store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container.
Quinoa vegetable salad
Makes 6 servings
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
- 1 small carrot, shredded
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves or lettuce leaves
Place quinoa in a bowl, rinse well and drain. Combine quinoa and 1 cup water in small saucepan. Cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, keep covered and allow to stand 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa and spoon into bowl.
Place lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard and sugar. Blend in parsley and thyme; season lightly with salt and pepper. Set dressing mixture aside.
Stir minced shallot, peas, carrot and tomatoes into quinoa. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat evenly. Set aside 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Arrange spinach on serving plate. Spoon quinoa mixture over spinach.
Per serving: 99 calories (24 percent from fat), 3 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 47 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.