I’m handing the stage to my dear mother-in-law, who introduced me to this beautiful grain fourteen years ago. Thank you, Estee! I appreciate your help. I love every word you wrote.
An on-going, exasperating controversy about Quinoa is how to say it. Most commonly it’s pronounced “KEEN-wah” with two syllables (ˈkēn-ˌwä,). However, my Peruvian friend and my Colombian friend laughed and said that in Peru they call it just as it is spelled “kee-NO-ah” (kē-ˈnō-ə), so my daughter-in-law and I insist on calling it by its native name. Whatever you call it, it is a gorgeous plant and so very healthy.
I first heard about it in a raw-food cooking class (is that an oxymoron?) at an artsy gourmet kitchen in a SoHo loft in New York, where anything cooked at low heat, such that you can put your hand in, is still considered raw. Of course, this takes forever, and I never went RAW, so cooking it in boiling water for 12 minutes is totally fine by me. And so, since the mid 90s, I’ve been hooked on Kee-No-Ah. I love the texture in my mouth, I love the look of the little sprouts in every grain, I love the variety of foods I can add it to, and I love how very healthy it is…and not fattening.. It’s an essential food of the Quechua, the indigenous people of the South American Andes. The ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and respected it as sacred.
Technically, quinoa isn’t a grain at all, but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. Grain, seed, whatever. I just love its delicate, slightly nutty flavor and the fact that it’s gluten-free. It’s also considered to be a “complete” protein due to the presence of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. Grains like barley, wheat, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. The seeds cook very quickly and always add a nice, fluffy texture to stews and soups.
- 2 medium beets, cooked (boil them in water or roast them in the oven)
- 2 cups quinoa
- 1 Hass avocado or goat cheese
- 2 scallion sprigs
- 5 - 7 mint leaves
- Half lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Sumac - optional
- Handful toasted hazelnuts
- My favorite way is to roast them in the oven: wrap them in wet baking paper (it makes it easier to crumple the paper and work with it when it's wet) and roast them in a preheated oven to 400°F for about 40 minutes. If the beets are big and bulky, quarter them before you cook them.
- Steam them in a steaming pot.
- Simmer them in water for about 40 minutes until they are tender.
- Cook the quinoa: boil the 2½ cups of water in a medium sauce pan. Add 2 cups of quinoa and ½ teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 12 minutes. Let the quinoa cool down for a few minutes before you put into a salad bowl.
- Peel and dice the beets and avocado and set aside. Chop the herb finely and set aside. Add the quinoa into a salad bowl with the beets, avocado, herb, salt, pepper and sumac. Squeeze the lemon, drizzle the olive oil. Crush the hazelnuts and sprinkle them over the salad. Toss gently and serve.