In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

QUINOA: the Incas "Mother Grain"

I was asked by friend "what to do with Quinoa?"
She wanted to give it a try as part of a gluten-free diet as a substitute for wheat and other grains: in fact, it has the highest protein content of all "grains" -- and unlike others, it has all 8 essential amino acids, so it is a very wholesome food indeed.

First of all, let's clarify: Quinoa isn't truly a grain (all grains are graminoids or grasses), rather, Quinoa is in the goosefoot family (Chenopodium), and is thus more closely related to spinach, beets and tumbleweed.
So, kids, eat your tumbleweed!!!

Storage: I recently learned you're supposed to refrigerate it, and not store it for months in a cupboard-- that was news to me, but it does make sense that quinoa's proteins would degrade if stored too long.
I don't refrigerate mine (too little room in my frig!), but I do mark the date of purchase so that it does not linger too long...
Washing: Many recipes call for washing/soaking/rinsing quinoa to rid it of its bitter saponins.
This may not strictly be necessary (most quinoa commercially available in the US has the saponins removed already) -- I've never heard my family complain about the taste, but it may be a good idea if you find it has a bitter taste. Soak in warm water for at least 5 minutes, then rinse it, using a fine sieve.
Cooking Proportions: 1.5 to 2 cups liquid for each cup of quinoa.
If you rinse it first, go for 1.5 ratio, esp if using a rice cooker (yes, you can!)
I often heat up stock or broth, then use the 2/1 ratio and cook until all liquid is absorbed.
Uses for Quinoa: replace any recipe that calls for rice or cous-cous.
For breakfast, eat it like oatmeal with honey, nuts and dried fruit.
Make a vegetarian chili by replacing the meat with quinoa.
Use it in brothy soups, such as chicken-vegetable soup, replacing the noodles.
Bake with it: add some cooked quinoa to your favorite bread or muffin recipe.

Quinoa w/ fennel and sun-dried tomatoes
olive oil
onions, chopped
fennel bulb, chopped
celery stalk, chopped
carrots, you guessed it: chopped
sundried tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces (soak in warm water and add w/ veggies, unless packed in oil -- then add at the end w/ olives)
garlic -- finely chopped
1/2 t dried thyme
1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups stock, broth or water
1/2 t salt (unless using a salty broth)
optional: calamata olives
fennel greens, chopped

Saute veggies in olive oil, add spices, add quinoa, stir everything well. Add broth and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Let sit for another 5 minutes or so, then fluff with a fork and add olives and chopped fennel greens before serving.

Quinoa & Fruit Winter Salad
recipe from Eldest -- and may I add is perfect for winter when you're low on fresh vegetables...

cooked quinoa
raisins (or cranberries)
scallions (or red onions)
canned mandarin oranges
orange zest
peanuts (or cashews)
sesame or other delicate, aromatic oil

Yesterday, I made a yummy mexican-style Quinoa bean salad I posted a while back (see here), and here is a whole bunch more quinoa recipes on the website

Photo credit: http://andescrop


  1. I got a Rancho gordo cookbook (from Napa, CA) about heritage beans--plus two bags of beans-- for Christmas. I think you'd like it. I was a little intimidated by cooking dried beans (takes planning), but after a few recipes, I have a whole new appreciation for them--especially since they're loaded with protein, and I've cut so much red meat out of my diet.

    Rancho Gordo also sells a quinoa.

    Any chance you're on Facebook?

  2. Great post! I never knew quite what to do with Quinoa AND I never knew I had to refrigerate it. I'm definitely trying your Winter Salad recipe this week.