International Year of Quinoa

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa.”   This superfood was new to me this year. It looks like beautiful flowers growing, yes? It is not a flower or a grain – it is a seed.  Nutrition-wise, quinoa has awesome benefits for you. One cup contains eight grams of proteinand it is a complete protein.

Although it plays the roll of a grain in the kitchen, quinoa is in fact a seed that’s harvested from a plant related to beets and spinach. That makes it a pseudocereal in the technical parlance, which is a word more people should work into casual conversation.

The nutrient composition is very good compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.  After harvest, the seeds need to be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. Quinoa seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. I keep experimenting with different recipes. The following is the one I am trying next:

Quinoa Salad with Shaved Raw Vegetables and Carrot-Ginger Dressing Recipe
For the salad:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water Salt and pepper, to taste 1/2 pound asparagus, very thinly sliced lengthwise 2 large radishes, very thinly sliced crosswise 1/4 pound sugar snap peas, very thinly sliced lengthwise 1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced crosswise 3 tablespoons olive oil Fresh lemon juice, to taste 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese Carrot-Ginger Dressing (recipe below) For the Carrot-Ginger Dressing:
1/2 pound carrots, chopped (about 4 carrots) 3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar 1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil 1 teaspoon white miso paste 1 tablespoon honey Juice from 1/2 a lime 1 tablespoon sesame oil One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

For the salad:
In a medium pot, combine the quinoa, broth, and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, stir once, and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the asparagus, radishes, sugar snaps, Brussels sprouts, oil, and a big splash of lemon juice and gently toss to combine. Add the pumpkin seeds and cheese, season with salt and pepper, then gently toss again. Check the seasonings and serve with the Carrot-Ginger Dressing. (You can toss the salad with the dressing in the bowl, but it muddies the look a bit, so we prefer to serve it on the side and let everyone help themselves.)
For the Carrot-Ginger Dressing:
In a food processor or blender, combine the carrots, ginger, vinegar, miso, honey, sesame oil, and lime juice. Pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until the carrots and ginger are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add the grapeseed oil and process until the dressing is almost smooth. Quickly dip a piece of lettuce (or vegetable) in the dressing, shake off any excess, and check the seasonings. The Carrot-Ginger Dressing will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for about 1 week.

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