Quinoa is native to South America and has been in continuous cultivation by the native people of Peru, Bolivia, and the entire Andes region for over 5,000 years. Quinoa plants thrive in the harsh environment of high altitude mountains and have provided a complete protein source for the descendants of the Incan people for millennia.
Although it is actually a seed, quinoa cooks up like a grain. To me, the light fluffy texture is very similar to couscous. Quinoa has a nice, earthy, nutty flavor and it can be used as a breakfast cereal, added to soups, used to thicken sauces, made into a pilaf, or a wonderful cold salad – like this one.
Always rinse quinoa before cooking! A word of caution if you have not cooked quinoa before. Quinoa is coated with a natural coating called saponin which also protects the seeds from the strong rays of the sun at high altitude and also keeps birds from eating young seeds.
Saponin is not harmful to humans but it does give quinoa a slightly bitter taste. To get rid of the saponin, you just need to rinse the quinoa in cold water before cooking. Quinoa grains are small, so you must use a fine-mesh strainer. If you don’t already have one, the Norpro KRONA Stainless Steel 8 Inch Mesh Strainer is a great choice.
Cook quinoa like rice – two parts water to one part quinoa. I like to use chicken or vegetable stock to give the quinoa a little extra flavor. Add the quinoa and the liquid to a pot, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes, then set aside off the heat for 5 more minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and it is ready to serve.
Quinoa has a low glycemic index, is a good source of fiber, and is considered a complete protein – making it a fantastic source of fuel for all of us – especially vegetarians.
Quinoa Salad with Almonds & Raisins
- 2 cups raw quinoa (or 3 cups pre-cooked quinoa)
- 4 cups water, chicken, or veggie stock
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1 cup diced red bell powder
- 1 cup toasted almond silvers
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Thoroughly rinse the quinoa to remove any bitter taste.
- Place the quinoa, water (or stock) and curry powder in a medium sauce pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let sit, with the lid on, for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the quinoa, and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the peppers, onion, raisins, almonds mint, and parsley. Stir in the quinoa.
- Combine the rice wine vinegar with the oil and then gently stir into the salad.
- Refrigerate to let all the flavors mingle.