Prairie Fare: Grain-like quinoa high in fiber, proteinWhile at a nutrition conference, I tasted a delicious salad made with a grain-like food called quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) mixed with fresh vegetables.
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM
While at a nutrition conference, I tasted a delicious salad made with a grain-like food called quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) mixed with fresh vegetables. I decided to make a similar salad at home. Making the recipe, however, required a bit of a scavenger hunt at the grocery store, and the ingredients became a conversation piece.
“Where do you suppose I’d find the quinoa?” I asked my husband as we meandered around a grocery store on our weekly grocery shopping mission. I was in the aisle where they sell rice, couscous and other grain products. I didn’t find any quinoa.
“I’ll see if I can find it,” he said with determination. I think he was relieved I didn’t give him a coupon to find a specific brand of food, as I often do.
I proceeded to look for canned chickpeas, another ingredient in my recipe. Usually I find chickpeas with the canned beans because they also are known as “garbanzo beans.” I couldn’t find them, either.
Technically, chickpeas are “pulses,” along with split peas and lentils. Chickpeas can be used interchangeably with canned beans in recipes. These fiber-rich foods are blended with tahini (a sesame seed paste) and other ingredients to make a delicious Mediterranean dip known as hummus.
I finally located cans of chickpeas in the Mexican food aisle because many Mexican-style recipes include chickpeas.
I continued to look for the quinoa and my husband, who had vanished from view. Had he given up and retreated to our air-conditioned vehicle?
I glanced up when I saw a man waving at me from a distant aisle. Yes, it was my husband. He had located the quinoa in the organic food section. I found several brands of quinoa.
As I set all of my groceries on the conveyor belt, the customer in front of me noted the quinoa. “How do you cook that, anyway?” he asked. I quickly described the process and the final product for him.
Later that afternoon, while preparing to cook quinoa at home, my younger daughter studied the bag. She asked me how to pronounce quinoa.
After hearing the pronunciation, she thought the name sounded like some sort of martial art. She began squawking “quinoa” like a parrot and doing karate moves around the kitchen.
I need to bring more novel foods into the house, I thought to myself. She definitely will remember how to pronounce it, though.
Quinoa is a type of seed similar to millet and a botanical cousin of spinach and tumbleweed. Often called the “mother grain,” quinoa has been used for food for at least 5,000 years. It especially was valued by the Incas of South America. Quinoa is gluten-free and high in fiber and high-quality protein. Quinoa also provides vitamins and minerals, including iron and magnesium.
Quinoa naturally has a bitter coating called saponin, which requires a processing step at the manufacturer or a soaking process at home. Saponin is a soap-like compound that can have laxative effects if it is not removed properly. In nature, the bitter compound detracts birds and insects from eating it during cultivation.
Most packaged quinoa has been processed to remove the saponin compound, so it only requires a simple rinsing step in a fine-meshed strainer. If the coating has not been removed, the directions might recommend that you measure quinoa into a container of water and rub it in your palms to scour off the bitter coating.
On the menu, quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice or couscous (a granular pasta-like product made from durum wheat). Because we had ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley waiting to be picked from our backyard garden, my daughters and I harvested our vegetables and used them to make a Mediterranean-style salad called tabbouleh. This salad typically is made with bulgur, which is a grain product. Tabbouleh is particularly popular in the Middle East.
My family pronounced this salad “refreshing and light.” I also thought it was colorful and nutritious.
3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dry quinoa makes 3 cups cooked)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
(about 2 medium lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ teaspoon minced garlic (if desired)
¼ teaspoon salt
Black pepper (freshly ground if available) to taste
1 (14.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
Prepare quinoa following the directions on the package. This is the typical procedure: Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer under cold, running water; drain well. If desired, toast quinoa in a skillet (without oil) before cooking to impart a roasted flavor. Heat 2 cups of water to boiling and then add 1 cup of quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and grains are translucent. Rinse and then squeeze the lemons. Mix lemon juice with olive oil, chopped parsley, garlic (if desired), salt and pepper. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to meld.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber and 190 milligrams of sodium.
Garden-Robinson is a food and nutrition specialist for the NDSU Extension Service