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Quinoa. Learning to love it.

Who knew that quinoa packed so much protein in its weird little spirally grain? Turns out, it’s a pseudo-grain since it comes from a plant, not a grass, and indigenous Andean natives considered it holy. The Spanish conquerors found that heretical and tried to ban its use for a few centuries, to no avail.

I decided to cook it after a friend of mine, Chana Citron, taught me that it is an ideal kid food. Provides all essential amino acids, and packs an enormous amount of protein (12-18%). First rule, which I learned the hard way: you must rinse it. Boxed brands supposedly are pre-rinsed, but I don’t trust them. Unfortunately, I didn’t rinse my first batch. The kids dutifully tasted a bit and immediately, unanimously rejected it. Ruined by saponins, the bitter coating that prevents birds from devouring the entire crop.

It is amazing how many recipes neglect the rinsing part. The grains are small, but I happen to have a strainer fetish, so with a fine-meshed strainer it is a snap to rinse under cold running water in the sink.

The other part that kids have to overcome is the firm little spiral (the germ) that separates from the seed once you cook it enough. It can be a bit intimidating, visually speaking. Kids can be merciless food critics, visually and texturally. Quinoa has a great mouth feel once you rinse it and cook it enough, but that spiral thing takes some getting used to.

I tried adding one part short grain brown rice (sweet, so kids like it) to two parts quinoa, and that was pretty great. I use what all recipes suggest, which is 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, although I have been sauteing finely diced onion in olive oil, then adding the grains, and finally adding the water. It tends to make for a richer side dish, like a pilaf.

I am plotting my next introduction of quinoa to the kids. I will have to lose the curry I’ve been adding to my own preparation, and just keep it simple: olive oil, sel de mer, and perhaps another brown rice combo.

This is all part of my bigger plan to eat more like a vegan, and secretly bring my family along with me. This was inspired by meeting a young vegan friend, Daniel Bowman Simon, at Hazon’s food conference. He wants to plant green roofs on all of Manhattan, boosting O2, diminishing CO2, and all that great stuff. I was inspired by his wiry frame, and his evolutionary spin on eating a vegan diet (“cow’s milk is made to make little cows grow big.”)

Curious to hear of anyone’s successful quinoa recipes, especially if kids will eat it.

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8 Responses to “Quinoa. Learning to love it.”

  1. saltyfemme Says:

    I don’t know if kids will go for it, but I’ve made the Peruvian Quinoa Stew from ‘Moosewood Cooks at Home’ (http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin.....71679929-3) a million times, it is easy, full of flavor, healthy, and vegan. The recipe also appears online (http://recipes.chef2chef.net/r.....9536.shtml).
    Quinoa also makes great hot cereal – just add a little milk, brown sugar or honey, and raisins.

  2. Daniella Says:

    Can you offer any of your own favorite recipes?

  3. Sarah Rose Says:

    I like it with traditional Mediterranean veggies – zucchini, garlic and onions sauteed in olive oil with basil and a little lemon juice, for instance.

  4. Jay Mankita Says:

    My sweetheart Susan says:
    Quinoa can work well in the place of rice for stir frys, is particularly good in muffins, and is also excellent leftover in a fresh salad (of chopped celery, grated carrot, corn, tomatoes, and a poppy seed dressing). In baked goods and in cold salads, Quinoa stays firm and tasty, and keeps well. Must be those ‘firm little spirals’!

  5. Phyllis Bieri Says:

    To saltyfemme — I love the stew idea, especially the new world addition of tomatoes. I recently learned from Bill Buford’s fabulous book, Heat, that Italian cuisine initially shunned the tomato for circa 100 years, assuming it was a weird poisonous fruit.

    To Daniella — Sadly, I cannot yet offer you a quinoa recipe I love or swear by.

    To Sarah Rose — Your mediterranean veggie recipe makes me yearn for my summer vegetables. Thanks.

    To Jay Mankita’s sweetheart Susan — I love the idea of using quinoa in muffins, and will resolve to cook more plain batches to ensure leftovers. Ditto for its use in salads. Muchas gracias. — Phyllis Bieri

  6. Sarah Rose Says:

    The Boston Globe is all over this one:

    http://www.boston.com/ae/food/.....et_grains/

    (although their quinoa recipe relies on shrimp…)

  7. chanie Says:

    i usually just leave some of the quinoa plain for my kids and use the rest for whatever recipe i’m making. i’ve mixed in toasted almonds and raisins – that goes over well with kids.
    i also recently made quinoa muffins – mixing in some cooked quinoa and using part quinoa flour – that my kids loved. the recips is in deborah madison’s vegetarian cooking for everyone – but you could probably improvise with any muffin recipe.

  8. Addyson Says:

    nice ,i enjoyed reading this and i will be back

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