Most Viewed Stories
Move over rice, quinoa a hearty substitute
If you're feeling a little nutty and want to try something new for dinner, try quinoa, a nutty tasting grain that's high in nutritional value and can be used just about any way rice can be used.
“Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is the super grain from South America (and) used by the Incas,” said Nancy Meister, professor of culinary arts and nutrition at Arizona Western College.
“Nutritionally speaking, it's very good. A cup of cooked quinoa has about eight grams of protein compared to a cup of white rice, which has only four grams of protein.”
Just as rice contains all of the essential amino acids, so does quinoa, she said. “But it's kind of misleading in that you may still have one of the amino acids in short supply.”
Quinoa, however, is constantly being touted as a complete protein, she said.
That's good news for vegetarians or others who want to reduce the amount of animal-based protein they consume. For example, quinoa could be substituted for a meat-based filling for stuffed squash or bell peppers.
Quinoa is sometimes substituted for rice in recipes such as rice pilaf, and other times it's eaten as a hot breakfast cereal.
Quinoa may cost a bit more than white rice. For instance, a 12 ounce box recently purchased at a local health food store cost $5.29 whereas a 28 ounce bag of white rice usually costs around two to three dollars at a grocery store.
Typical package directions for cooking quinoa are similar to those for cooking white rice: one part quinoa to two parts water (some recipes may call for a different ratio). And quinoa cooks in about 10 to 15 minutes. Once all the cooking water has been absorbed and the edges of the tiny grains are translucent, quinoa is ready to eat.
The texture and appearance of quinoa is similar to that of bulgur wheat. Though it has a unique, nutty flavor all its own, it is sometimes compared to pasta. Tema Arriola has a different description.
After tasting quinoa for the first time a few days ago, she seemed surprised at its fresh flavor and slightly crunchy texture. “It tastes like the masa of green corn tamales,” she said. “The sweet ones.”
Although she tried it plain with not even salt for seasoning, her son, Conrad, 13, eagerly tried his with milk, sugar and cinnamon. Upon discovering that he didn't like it after all, he quietly said, “Yuck.” No one else present that day dared try it as a breakfast cereal after that.
One way to complement a food that's been described as tasting like tamale masa is with a quickly sautéed pico de gallo. Folded into lightly salted, cooked quinoa, the sautéed veggies add a hint of Mexican spice that enhance but do not overpower the nutritious grain.
The following recipe can be served as a vegetarian meal as it's quite filling by itself, or it can be served as a side dish.
Quinoa with sautéed pico de gallo
Makes four servings
Prep time: approximately 20 minutes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 large fresh jalapeno pepper, de-veined and chopped
1 teaspoon oil
Optional: salt, to taste
Bring quinoa and water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over low to medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent but not limp. Add peppers and tomatoes and sauté until tomatoes are barely warm. Fold into cooked quinoa and serve immediately with salt, if desired. Quinoa with sautéed pico de gallo is also good when eaten cold.