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Quinoa is the New “It” Food!

By Heidi Allison
Image of Quinoa with Seasoning Packet
This nutritional powerhouse from the Andes is not only easy to digest, but, is one of the few plants that supplies the full panel (9) of essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein—-great news for vegetarians! Moreover, this Andean super-seed has a higher protein content compared to whole grains, such as wheat, oats, barely, millet or teff, and, quinoa supplies an impressive lineup of healthy antioxidants, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and two flavonoids —quercetin and kaempferol—in concentrated amounts! Large-scale, human studies investigating the ability of quinoa to reduce the risk of colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes are in the “its” bright future!

Quinoa is easy to prepare and cooks quickly (15 minutes). However, there are three culinary tricks that make the difference between merely “good” and “great" quinoa: rinsing the seeds before cooking (even if they’re labeled “pre-washed”); toasting the quinoa before adding liquid; and adding less liquid than most recipes call for (usually 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid). Although rinsing might seem like an unnecessary step, an extra wash removes all lingering traces of saponins, a bitter-tasting, soap-like compound found naturally in the plant (FYI: some companies are better at removing saponins than others). Toasting the quinoa brings up a hidden dimension of nutty flavor and rich aroma so intense it will fill the entire kitchen! And, using only 1¾ cup of liquid (water, vegetable or chicken stock) to 1 cup quinoa; then allowing the quinoa to finish off on the pot with steam, creates a grain that is tender and pearly, rather than mushy.

Another culinary technique that takes this pilaf into the realm of sublime is —-adding smoke! In this dish, the liquid smoke is incorporated at the end of prep—it’s the final step—before serving. Just be careful to measure this ingredient accurately—too much will taste bitter; just the right amount creates a subtle, intriguing flavor that will haunt you —-it’s that good!

Smoked Quinoa Pilaf with Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Green Onion and Macadamia Nuts in a Lemon & Aji Amarillo Chile Vinaigrette
Serves 6 as side / 3 as entrée

1 cup Quinoa
1¾ cups Water
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into ¼ inch dice
½ Green Bell Pepper cut into ¼ inch dice
5 Green Onions, green and white parts, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
4 stalks Organic Celery, ¼ inch slice
½ cup Macadamia Nuts, toasted
1 bunch Dill, leaves only and minced
8 drops of Natural Liquid Smoke

Juice of 2 Meyer Lemons, about ¼ cup
3 Tablespoons Roasted Walnut Oil
1 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
¼ teaspoon Aji Amarillo Chile Powder (optional)

Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer for 1 minute, rubbing with a wooden spoon to remove any traces of bitter saponins; then drain.
Image of raw quinoa in a saucepan
Place quinoa in a saucepan, and heat on medium-high heat until a nutty fragrance emerges and quinoa becomes lightly toasted—about 2 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes (you will see a white edge around each grain). Turn off heat and allow sitting for at least 5 minutes.
Image of cooked quinoa
Remove quinoa to a large bowl, and set aside.

Fluff quinoa with a fork. Add red and green bell peppers, green onion, macadamia nuts, celery and dill to cooled quinoa; then toss to combine.

Whisk together lemon juice, walnut oil, salt and Aji Amarillo chile in a mixing bowl to combine; then pour over quinoa mixture and toss to coat.

Add liquid smoke to quinoa salad and toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to “marry”.
Image of Quinoa
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