Quinoa Rice Recipes

“I have cooked a very healthy dinner for you today… it is Quinoa Pilaf and tomato soup”, quipped Gauri, my niece, as my family trudged in from a fun but tiring sightseeing trip to the Highlands five years ago.

As a graduate student in Edinburgh, Gauri had found ways to eat healthy on a budget. The pilaf was the most unusual food that I had tasted. It was small beige grain with a nutty but earthy flavor with a weird sounding name Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah). I eyed the plate with a little apprehension, but to my surprise the pilaf was very tasty.

Ancient in its origins, Quinoa has been a staple food of millions for almost 5,000 years, and is known with great respect as the “Mother Grain.” Although new to North Americans, it has been cultivated in the South American Andes, since at least 3,000 B.C. The ancient Incas called it “the mother grain” and revered it as sacred. Quinoa is billed as a grain, but it’s actually a high-protein, gluten-free, super-nutritious seed that is as tasty and versatile as it is healthy.

The Quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. One researcher has said, “While no single food can supply all of the essential life-sustaining nutrients, Quinoa comes as close as any other in the vegetable or animal kingdoms.”

Quinoa is a small seed that in size, shape, and color looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet. It is disk shaped with a flattened band around its periphery. It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from pale yellow through pink, orange, or red to purple and black. In its uncooked state, it takes the form of small off-white disks. It swells when it’s cooked and has a lightly nutty, slightly earthy flavor - very mild but distinct, and much more interesting than rice or couscous.

As soon as I returned from Scotland, I ventured into a health store and discovered this grain in the health store and made the Quinoa pilaf in my kitchen. But to my surprise the pilaf was very bitter and inedible. I decided that Quinoa is not for me and threw the box of Quinoa in the garbage

Five years rolled by. Recently I was reintroduced to Quinoa at a food sampling in a health store. It was delicious. I decided to give it another try. I picked up a box of Quinoa and followed the instructions very carefully this time. The Quinoa pilaf was not bitter this time.

I discovered that the key factor in making good quinoa is to wash it several times in water. Quinoa seeds are covered with saponin, a resin-like substance that is extremely bitter and forms a soapy solution in water to make the seed edible; the saponin must be removed, traditionally done by hand-scrubbing and adequate rinsing.

Quinoa is usually pale yellow. The disk shaped seed has a band about its periphery. As the grain cooks, this band partially separates from the seed but retains its curved shape. In appearance cooked quinoa looks liked cooked couscous sprinkled with little spirals or crescent moons.

Quinoa is as easy to cook as rice. In fact, it’s cooked exactly like rice, though it needs to be rinsed first. Just throw it in a fine sieve/colander and run it under some cold water, or swish it around in a bowl of water and then drain it. To cook it, use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. The grain itself seems to melt in your mouth. But the tiny bands offer just enough tooth resistance to create a minute crunch, affording a varied and pleasant sensation.

Quinoa has a very light, fluffy texture and a mild taste that easily takes on other flavors. If you’ve never had Quinoa before, then I recommend starting simple. The next time you are cooking rice, try subsituting half the rice with Quinoa instead. There is a whole world of Quinoa to explore out there. Add it salad, or stew or soup. It’s healthy, it’s yummy and it’s fun to say.

Massala Quinoa

My childhood friend Jayashri Chari made Upma, a savory and delicious cream of wheat entree, for me when she was visiting me. I substituted Quinoa for cream of wheat that she had used.

1 cup quinoa
1 teaspoon oil
1-2 green chilies
1 cup cabbage (finely shredded )
1/2 teaspoon sambhar powder (optional)
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt (as per taste)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup almonds (chopped)

Wash Quinoa in water and drain of the water. Repeat 3 times. Heat a pan, add the washed Quinoa and roast for 3-4 minutes

Heat a pot with teaspoon oil. Add chilies and sauté for a minute. Add shredded cabbage and sauté for 2 minutes. Add water, sambhar powder salt and sugar. Bring it to a boil. Throw in the toasted quinoa and stir. Lower heat, cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Finally add lime juice, cilantro and almonds. Mix it gently and fluff the grains. Serve piping hot with a bowl of plain yogurt

Hema’s Hints:

  • Enjoy the leftover cold pilaf for an excellent lunch.

Quinoa Pudding

A pudding that tastes great and does wonders for your health too.

1/2 cup Quinoa
2 cups milk
pinch of salt
2 cups carrot (shredded)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar ( as per taste)
5-6 almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Wash and rinse Quinoa three times. Drain and keep aside. Heat milk in microwave and keep aside. In a pan add washed quinoa and dry roast for a minute. Add a cup of hot milk, pinch of salt, cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Keep aside.

Place shredded carrots in a bowl. Add water to carrots and cover for five minutes. Drain the carrots. In a blender make a smooth puree of 1 cup of milk and carrots. Add the pureed carrots to cooked quinoa. Mix in sugar, almond and cook for 5 more minutes finally add orange extract and remove from heat. Serve piping hot or chilled.

Hema's Hints:

For variation, Add cranberries and raisins while cooking quinao