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Quinoa: The New Cool Carb!

By Marie Oser, Managing Editor
September 6, 2010
File under: Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Vegan

Photo Credit: Joseph A. Garcia

Quinoa (keen-wa) is a delicious and easy to digest grain that has been grown in South America for thousands of years. The Incas revered quinoa for its strong nutritional properties and called it the “food of the gods.”Quinoa is not a true cereal grain and takes its culinary classification among grains such as, amaranth and buckwheat.

Quinoa is gluten-free and while generally referred to as a grain, is in fact a seed that looks a lot like a small, flat sesame seed.

Like soy, quinoa is very high in lysine, an amino acid not often found in vegetables and is an abundant source of complete protein, which means that it contains all nine essential amino acids. This versatile grain is also high in calcium and iron and a good source of phosphorous, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins.

Unlike wheat or other grains, quinoa seeds are encircled by the germ and pulls away slightly when cooked, forming a delicate ring around the perimeter. Before cooking, quinoa must be rinsed several times in a fine wire mesh colander. This removes saponin, a bitter, resin-like substance that is a natural insect repellent.

While some agriculturists support the development of a saponin-free strain of quinoa, ecologists point out that the bitter-tasting saponin prevents insect infestation naturally, arguing that it is better to rinse away saponin than resort to pesticides.

Enlightened Quinoa Pilaf is a delightful dish. The vegetarian pepperoni adds a tasty kick and together with baked tofu contributes to the visual and textural characteristics of familiar ingredients.

The quinoa is cooked, added to the sauté and finished with a touch of sherry, however you may substitute apple cider or additional broth. If on a gluten-free regimen, replace the baked tofu and pepperoni with soy tempeh.

Enlightened Quinoa Pilaf

More Soy Cooking, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ©Marie Oser 2000

6 servings

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup diced vegetarian pepperoni
1 (6 ounce package) hickory baked tofu, sliced*
1/3 cup dry sherry or apple cider
1/3 cup vegetable broth, boiling
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme

In a wire mesh strainer, rinse quinoa thoroughly until water runs clear. Place quinoa and water in medium saucepan, bring to a boil, stir and reduce heat to low.  Simmer covered 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. In 10-inch frying pan, heat olive oil and crushed pepper over medium high heat. Cook 1 minute.  Add garlic, scallions, chopped celery, pepperoni and tofu. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add sherry, cook mixture 3 minutes and reduce heat to low. Stir in cooked quinoa, broth, peas and thyme.  Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*To slice tofu: Lay the knife almost flat against the surface of the tofu and slice outward.

Enlightened Quinoa Pilaf

Nutrition Analysis: per 2 cup serving

Protein 18g, Carbohydrate 38g, Fiber 5g, Fat 5g,
Cholesterol 0 mg, Calcium 53 mg, Sodium 420mg

Calories 270

Notes on ingredients:

Baked Tofu: Versatile style of tofu and a quick high protein addition to dishes from sandwiches to stir-fry. Available at health food stores from Wildwood Foods and at Trader Joe’s.

Veggie Pepperoni: Tasty and familiar, without the guilt from Yves and Lightlife, at health food stores.

Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV, Follow Marie on Twitter:

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An alternative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Marie Oser and her team of bloggers bring you creative natural solutions to issues affecting our health and wellbeing.

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