Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quinoa: The Mother Grain

Quinoa (keen-wah) has been cropping quite often in food-related news and since we like trying out new ingredients, especially vegetables and grains, it was a matter of time before it showed up on our dinner table.

Quinoa is native to the Andes Mountains of Chile, Peru and Bolivia and has been grown there for about 6000 years! Its protein content is unusually high, contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, is a good source of dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron and is gluten-free. No wonder the Incas called it the mother grain.

This is what uncooked quinoa looks like:

It was easy to get Quinoa; Trader Joe's carries it. Preparing it was another matter. I was at a loss for ideas.
My son suggested I add curry leaves and Ajji's masala (literally it means grandma's masala which is nothing but good ol' Maharashtrian goda masala).

I followed the instructions on the package to cook it (1 part quinoa, 2 parts water, cook till the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes). Cooked quinoa doesn't have a distinctive taste of its own, which is a good thing as it means one is free to improvise.
Plain cooked quinoa looks like little translucent pearls with a ring around them. Very pretty. Take a look:

Quinoa: With Goda Masala
2 cups quinoa, cooked
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp goda masala (if unavailable, garam masala will work just as well. different flavour, though)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of hinga (asafoetida)
pinch of sugar
cilantro for garnishing
salt, according to taste

Heat oil, when hot add mustard seeds.
When the seeds sputter, add the hinga and turmeric.
Add the curry leaves and the masala.
Add the quinoa and turn off the heat.
Add the salt and sugar.
Mix very gently until well combined.
Add cilantro.

The quinoa with goda masala was immensely enjoyed.
The texture was like al-dente couscous.

We now want to try quinoa with:
-basil pesto and Parmesan
-sauted onions & peppers
-in a soup; such as Trupti's corn and zucchini soup
-in a sweet dish, quinoa-kheer sounds good!

I'm quickly sending this quality quaint grain, quinoa, to Nupur for her A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.

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