Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Tastier than a seed of millet!
More protein-packed than a grain of wheat!
Able to provide eight amino acids in a single bite!
Look! There on the screen!
It’s a seed! It’s a grain! It’s quinoa!
On the surface, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), may seem rather unremarkable. But in true superhero fashion, these South American seeds are anything but ordinary.
Not only do they pack a powerful punch of protein and fiber and come with a trusty team of essential vitamins and minerals (The Incredible Iron! B1-2-and-6-man!), they’re also one of the few plant-based complete proteins. For anyone watching their intake of animal products, that last point alone makes quinoa worthy of superhero status.
But quinoa is more than just a healthy face: it is white-rice-easy to prepare and its mildly-nutty flavour and fluffy texture make it an A+ alternative to its key culinary competitors, rice and couscous. And it’s got that fun, Frankensteinian factor: through the simple additions of water, heat and time, plain-Jane little seeds grow three times their size to become glowing curlicues. Yeah, no big deal.
So to help you harness the power of these super-seeds, I’m passing along basic quinoa cooking instructions as well as a full recipe for one of my favourite ways to serve quinoa - a warm, sweet-and-savoury quinoa so-much-more-than-a-salad salad. I’ve also included at the end of the post a few additional suggestions for cool quinoa-based creations.
The fate of dinner is now in your capable hands!
How to Cook Quinoa
Makes ~1.5 cups of cooked quinoa
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
Rinse and drain quinoa and add to a medium-sized pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Remove lid, fluff with a fork, and you’re ready to go!
*Want to make a different amount? Easy! Just follow a ratio of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (or broth, if you’re feeling flavourful), keeping in mind that 1 measure of dried quinoa will produce roughly 3 measures of cooked quinoa.
Quinoa Salad with Cider Vinaigrette
Salad inspired by Culina; Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes ~5 cups (enough for 4 for lunch)
½ cup light olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp minced shallots
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
4 cups of any darker lettuce, cut/torn into bite-sized bits (I used red leaf lettuce)
1½ cups cooked quinoa, still warm
1½ cups cooked chickpeas**
¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I like creamy sheep feta here)
⅓ cup dried cherries
⅓ cup slivered almonds, toasted
To make vinaigrette, combine first five ingredients in a lidded jar, screw on lid and shake jar vigorously until ingredients have combined.*** Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, toss remaining ingredients with 1/4 cup of vinaigrette. Taste and add more vinaigrette to your liking!
*I’ve specified exact quantities here, but don’t be afraid to adjust as you see fit, as your fresh ingredients - and your tastes - will be different from mine!
**Cook your own or use canned - either will do! To add a bit of extra richness and warmth to the salad, fry your chickpeas in a pan with a tablespoon or two of butter for a few minutes before adding them to the salad.
***This’ll make more vinaigrette than you need for the salad, but you may find that it’s handy to have a few homemade dressings hanging out in the fridge. Alternatively, you can simply cut the quantities of the vinaigrette ingredients in half.
Feeling the quinoa love? Try out some of these other cool quinoa ideas!
- Quinoa patties: quinoa + cheese, fried to tasty perfection.
- Breakfast quinoa: swap out the couscous and substitute in cooked quinoa for an extra-healthful start to the day.
- Moroccan-style quinoa stew: super-spiced vegetarian quinoa stew, perfect for a chilly day.
- Lemon-scented quinoa: Standard quinoa goes golden with the simple additions of fresh lemon juice and zest.
- Quinoa sprouts: Have you heard? Quinoa sprouts are the new alfalfa sprouts.