If you have not climbed aboard the Quinoa bandwagon, you are surely lost and slowly dying in a vast, epicurean desert. The popularity of Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has absolutely exploded. The proof of it's popularity is evident in the price of harvested Quinoa...it has tripled in the last seven years. The average price of a ton of Quinoa is currently $3,500. Compare that to wheat, which fetches a mere $340 per ton.
Quinoa became a domesticated crop approximately 4,000 years ago in the Andean region of South America. While it looks like a grain that should be a member of the grass family, it is not. And therein lies the difference that makes Quinoa a nutritional powerhouse. While grain-like in appearance, it is actually a chenopod...closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.
Quinoa is considered a proud member of the group loosely known as Superfoods. The seeds contain nine essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Protein content in the seed is very high...14%. It is gluten free and cholesterol free. It also tastes great, is very easy to digest and takes only 15 minutes to cook. Those attributes have contributed to it's exploding popularity.
Because it is so healthy, people who carefully manage what goes in their body have been swapping out grains and rice for Quinoa. Costco also just jumped on the bandwagon. For years, one of the most popular salads in their refrigerated section was Tabouleh, which is made with bulgur wheat. They just replaced that product with a new one called Quinoa Tabouleh. So now you get all of the health benefits of the olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes and onions married with the nutritional value of Quinoa. It is a truly spectacular salad, so pick it up next time you are at Costco.
If you search my blog for Quinoa, you'll find a bunch of really delicious and healthy recipes. To that list I add today's recipe, a gem of a salad created by Sarah-Jane Bedwell. Enjoy the salad on it's own...or add a little shredded breast meat from a rotisserie chicken to make it an entree. Serves six.
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 small avocado, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Turkish oregano recommended)
1 tsp lemon zest
- Add quinoa, water, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let quinoa cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, combine quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, carrots, kalamata olives, red onion, walnuts, avocado and feta cheese.
- To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and lemon zest in a small bowl. Pour dressing over the salad and stir until mixed well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Then serve.
Wine pairing: Conundrum White Wine