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.
Quinoa, Beet & Hazelnut Salad
- 2 medium beets - or 4 small ones
- 2 cups quinoa
- 1 avocado - or goat cheese
- 2 scallion
- 5 – 7 mint leaves
- Half lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Sumac – optional
- Handful toasted hazelnuts
- Three ways to cook beetsThe tastiest 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 400°F preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until they are tender. If the beets are big and bulky, quarter them so they cook quicker.Steam them in a steaming pot but dice them before and make sure there's enough water in pot.Simmer them in water for about 40 minutes until they are tender.
- Cook the quinoa: rinse the quinoa under running cold water (rinsing removes quinoa's natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Although boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, it doesn't hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse at home). Boil 2¼ cups water in a medium sauce pan. Add the quinoa and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 12 minutes. Let the quinoa cool down for a few minutes before you use it in the salad.
- Quinoa beet salad: 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.