FeaturesJune/July 2010 Issue

Cooking with Quinoa

Gluten-Free Grain

A marvelous thing about going gluten free is that it encourages exploration into the delicious, nutritious world of alternative grains and seeds. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN wah), an ancient food, is a complete protein that contains all essential amino acids, making it a meat substitute. What's more, it offers twice the protein of most cereal grains, along with impressive amounts of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and riboflavin. Quinoa's slow-releasing complex carbs keep you full longer and help ward off sugar cravings. You'll love these nutritious, summertime recipes that are gluten-free and allergy-friendly.

Cultivated over 5,000 years ago and revered by the Incas as “the mother grain,” quinoa is, in fact, a seed. The plant, which is related to beets, chard and spinach, is hardy enough to survive high altitudes, low rainfall, hot sun, subfreezing temperatures and a mixture of inferior soils. As with many ancient crops, it took hard physical work to make quinoa edible. The seeds are coated with a bitter-tasting substance called saponin. To remove it, native South Americans scrubbed the quinoa in alkaline-based water, using the soapy rinse that came off the seeds as a hair wash.

These days, the scrubbing is done for us—but to ensure no traces of saponin remain, you should thoroughly rinse quinoa in a sieve under cold, running water before cooking.

When cooked, quinoa becomes translucent, retains a little crunch and has a mild nutty-wheat flavor. Tasty on its own, it readily absorbs dressings, spices and assertive flavorings when mixed with other ingredients.

Quinoa is extremely versatile. It can be served hot or cold as a side or main course for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. Try it in salads or use it to replace bulgur or other grains in tabbouleh. It’s delicious as a vegetable stuffing in peppers, zucchini, eggplant and red onions. Turn it into a pilaf, add it to soups, or mix it with toasted coconut, yogurt, fruit and nuts, if tolerated, for a healthy breakfast.

 


Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Mint

SERVES 6

Enjoy this tasty side with grilled lamb cutlets or chicken thighs or serve it as the main event for lunch or a light dinner.

1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed in a sieve
4 small tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup Kalamata olives, drained
2 (10-ounce) cans chickpeas or white beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup fresh mint leaves
3 ounces goat’s feta cheese or dairy-free cheese replacement, optional

1. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, make several steam holes through it with a skewer, and let it drain.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half. Remove the cores and seeds. Chop flesh coarsely. Set aside.

3. Mix the oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked quinoa, black olives and chickpeas.

4. Just before serving, add the tomatoes and mint. Crumble the feta, if using, into the salad. Toss gently and serve.

Each serving contains 338 calories, 13g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 12mg cholesterol, 459mg sodium, 43g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 11g protein.

TIP If you have the time, use 1 cup dried chickpeas or beans instead of canned. Soak them overnight and cook them until tender, according to package instructions.


Gluten-Free Roast Chicken with Apricot Stuffing

SERVES 6

Browning chicken slowly develops its taste and an appetizing color—but keep the temperature low or the meat will burn. For succulent flavor, let the chicken cool for 30 minutes before serving.

¾ cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed in a sieve
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3½ tablespoons butter or olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons pine nuts, sunflower seeds
    or pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
¼ teaspoon salt, more for bird cavity
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup dried apricots, soaked in hot water for
    30 minutes
1 (3 pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup gluten-free chicken stock
¼ cup dry white wine

1. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, make several steam holes through it with a skewer, and let it drain thoroughly.

2. Put onion in a small skillet with 2 tablespoons butter or oil and cook gently until soft and pale gold in color. Add pine nuts (or sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds) and rosemary, salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add cooked quinoa.

3. Strain apricots, reserving soaking liquid, and chop finely. Stir apricots into quinoa mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cool.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Season chicken cavity with a little salt. Loosely stuff cavity with quinoa mixture; reserve any stuffing that does not fit in the chicken. Stitch chicken opening with string and loosely tie legs together.

6. Heat 1½ tablespoons butter or oil in a small roasting pan over low to medium heat. Place chicken in pan and gently brown it on all sides, ending breast facing up. Pour stock around chicken and season with salt.

7. Place pan in preheated oven and cook chicken uncovered for 1½ hours or until cooked through, basting often. Add more stock or water if pan gets dry.

8. Remove chicken from oven. Place on board to cool for 30 minutes before carving into joints and scooping out quinoa stuffing.

9. Place remaining quinoa stuffing in a shallow ovenproof dish. Add a little apricot water to make it moist. Cover pan with aluminum foil and heat in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

10. Skim fat from juices in roasting pan. Add white wine to juices and simmer mixture to thicken. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately with baked quinoa.

Each serving contains 667 calories, 43g total fat, 14g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 179mg cholesterol, 499mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 43g protein.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado

SERVES 4 TO 6

Avocados are a good source of energy and their protein content makes them a valuable food for vegetarians. This tasty salad makes a healthy lunch.

1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ small red onion, peeled and cut into slivers
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 perfectly ripe avocado

1. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, making several steam holes through it with the end of a skewer, and leave it to drain.

2. Whisk oil, lemon juice, garlic and mustard with ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Add quinoa and toss with dressing.

3. Put tomatoes, red onion and mint leaves in a separate large bowl and add quinoa with all the dressing. Toss well. Halve avocado, remove seed and peel. Chop avocado and add to salad. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

Each serving contains 239 calories, 14g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 27mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 5g protein.

TIP To speed up ripening, place avocados in a brown paper bag with a piece of fruit that gives off ethylene gas, such as a kiwi or banana.


Bean and Quinoa Chili

SERVES 6 OR MORE

This vegetarian meal is both nutritious and delicious.

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 stalks celery, washed and sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 (14-ounce) can Italian tomatoes, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed
    and drained
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
    and drained
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Put onion, garlic and celery in a saucepan with the olive oil. Cook gently for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften. Stir in the chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cook sauce gently for 25 minutes or until pulpy.

2. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, making several steam holes through it with a skewer, and let it drain.

3. Add drained beans to the tomato sauce and cook for a minute or two. Stir in parsley.

4. Divide quinoa into individual serving bowls and spoon chili on top of quinoa. Serve immediately.

Each serving contains 313 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1038mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, 12g fiber, 14g protein.

Red Quinoa Salad with Beets and Arugula

SERVES 4 TO 6

Quinoa comes in several colors (creamy white, pink, orange, red, purple and black, for instance). For a pretty look, use red quinoa, if available, in this salad to match the beets.

3 medium beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into
    small chunks
- Olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup red quinoa, thoroughly rinsed

Dressing

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 ounces baby arugula, trimmed
5 ounces goat’s feta cheese or dairy-free cheese replacement, optional
¼ cup small basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place beets in a shallow ovenproof dish lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat with oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake beets in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a skewer. Cool.

3. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, making several steam holes in it with a skewer, and let it drain.

4. To make dressing, whisk extra-virgin oil, lemon juice, garlic and mustard together in a large bowl with ¾ teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper.

5. Add quinoa to dressing and toss to coat. Add baked beets and cherry tomatoes. Toss lightly. Add arugula and toss again. Top with crumbled feta, if using, and basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Each serving contains 254 calories, 16g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 611mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 8g protein.

TIP If fresh beets aren’t available, canned beets may be used instead.


Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa

SERVES 6

This colorful dish makes a healthy and tasty main course for a vegetarian meal. Team it with a fresh salad of baby lettuce leaves. Serve hot or at room temperature.

1 pound orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
6 red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon chili powder
- Finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
¾ cup lightly toasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or cashew pieces, optional
- Extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and cook in lightly salted, gently boiling water until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

3. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, making several steam holes through it with the end of a skewer, and leave it to drain.

4. Slice the bell peppers in half. Cut out seeds and white membrane. Leave stalks in place.

5. In a bowl, mix together garlic, cinnamon, chili powder and lemon zest with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

6. Add pineapple, sunflower seeds, cooked quinoa and sweet potatoes to dressing. Toss gently to coat.

7. Place bell pepper halves in a shallow roasting pan and fill each with quinoa mixture. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

8. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until contents are heated through and peppers soften and turn golden.

Each serving contains 343 calories, 12g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 244mg sodium, 52g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 9g protein.

Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs

SERVES 4 TO 6

This simple summer salad goes nicely with grilled meats or vegetarian dishes, such as grilled bell peppers or eggplant with hummus.

1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
7 ounces slim green beans, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup small basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons cilantro sprigs
1 tablespoon snipped chives

1. Cook quinoa in plenty of gently boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes or until it softens (organic quinoa may take a few minutes longer). Tip quinoa into a fine sieve, making several steam holes through it with a skewer, and let it drain.

2. Plunge green beans into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain and rinse with plenty of cold water to stop the cooking. Dry off on paper towels.

3. In a large bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, garlic and mustard together with ½ teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Add quinoa and toss to coat with dressing.

4. Just before serving, stir in green beans, tomatoes and herbs. Serve immediately.

Each serving contains 184 calories, 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 122mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g protein.

Cookbook author and chef Julie Biuso lives in New Zealand.

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