The name may sound new and foreign, but quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, has been around for a very long time. Grown like grain for its edible seed, quinoa has been harvested in the Andes since the time of the Inca. In the region it has been considered a nutritionally important food along with potatoes and corn. What makes quinoa special is that it is high in protein and dietary fiber. It is suitable for vegetarian and gluten-free diets. Lately it has been gaining in popularity, partly due to magazine coverage, a renewed interest in health foods, and because it fits into the gluten-free diet as more and more people are diagnosed with celiac disease every year.
I first learned about quinoa four years ago from a coworker who had been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. I immediately took an interest in it and began cooking and baking with it. Quinoa is wonderful served just like rice or couscous as in this recipe for quinoa pilaf. It can also be found sold as flakes for breakfast use and flour for use in gluten-free baking. I really enjoy quinoa as a breakfast cereal instead of oatmeal, in pancakes, muffins, and quick breads such as this banana bread. Quinoa's nutty flavor and slight al dente bite make it much more interesting than the usual and oftentimes boring rice or potato side dish.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water
fine sea salt
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add rinsed quinoa to saucepan and stir until any residual water is evaporated. Toast for 2 minutes. Pour in 1-1/2 cups water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let any remaining liquid evaporate on low heat. Add chopped parsley and cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Mix together with a fork. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.