Thursday, October 4, 2012

Expand your home cooking repertoire: Get to know quinoa!

Thursday, October 4, 2012
I have to be honest: Before receiving 500 Best Quinoa Recipes to review, I had never used quinoa in my home cooking. But I had heard a lot about it, and my interest was piqued, so the timing to try out a few recipes was perfect.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) was first cultivated by the Incas. It's considered a seed, but is more specifically classified as a "pseudocereal" meaning that, while it is not technically a grass (true cereals are grasses), it can be used in the same way cereals are. It can be bought in various forms, including seeds, flakes, flour and pasta. While I've never had them before, you can eat the leaves of the quinoa plant - apparently they are good in a salad. Quinoa is closely related to spinach, chard and beets. This mighty plant yields a near-perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates and dietary fibre - for this reason, it is important to incorporate quinoa into vegetarian diets. It's also gluten-free - Celiacs, rejoice!

I chose two recipes to try, starting with a stew made mainly of green olives, shredded chicken, tomatoes, and chickpeas. The stew has officially become a regular part of our meal repertoire - I have already made it twice and plan to make it often, especially as winter approaches. We absolutely adore it - it is healthy, hearty and flavourful. It uses dried cilantro and a number of other aromatics along with reduced-sodium broth (I use less broth and add some water because it is already such a flavourful dish and I'm trying to keep it as healthy as possible). While the quinoa blends nicely into a stew, the green olives are my favourite part - despite the Mediterranean influences in the dish, black olives just wouldn't taste right. I used big plump green ones that still had their pits. And the best part: It's easy to transport leftovers to work for lunch!

The next recipe we tried was a salad with a horseradish dressing, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas and seared skirt steak. Condo living isn't the most conducive to searing a nice steak... This whole place turns smokey! But it was worth opening all the windows and the door to try this out. The colours just popped. I think I still need to perfect the horseradish dressing though - I found it a bit strong (didn't help that the only horseradish I came across was extra hot). The stew is still my favourite though, and. I think the salad is more a "once-in-a-while" recipe.

There are so many other items to try - I've only made two out of 500 recipes! There are a few breakfast ones I want to attempt. Later this week I'll be trying out a third recipe: crustless quiches starring quinoa and roasted red peppers. Yum!

I think every home cook should try expanding his/her at-home cooking repertoire, especially to find dishes that are healthy and tasty. For me it was all about getting comfortable with quinoa seeds. Next I may move onto using flour or flakes. Or I may try different methods of preparing it, like toasting it rather than using the pasta method to cook it. These recipes really make quinoa the star of the show. It's a good place to start and to get you comfortable with incorporating quinoa into your diet.

Yours in food,