Pronounced keen-wa. It is a pseudocereal, which means the seeds are used like cereal grains, but the plant is not a true grass. You might not expect this, but quinoa is related to beets and spinach. Whole seeds, flakes and flour are eaten here. In some parts of the world, the greens are eaten also.
Quinoa is an ancient crop, considered sacred by the Incas. Christian Spanish conquistadors did not like that and banned quinoa. It has been a slow road back to popularity. And we can thank the gluten free diet for increased interest in delicious, nutritious quinoa.
Quinoa seeds have a natural coating called sopanins that taste soapy and bitter. It is a natural defense system that makes the seed distasteful to birds. They will not eat the crop in the field before it sprouts.
We do not like the taste of sopanins either and used to have to rinse the seeds with three changes of water. You could see the soapy bubbles disappear with each rinsing. But now, most commercially available quinoa is already rinsed for you. Modern day quinoa might qualify as convenience food!
Quinoa has more protein than any other grain, and it is complete protein.
The World’s Healthiest Foods notes: because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
quinoa-flour-flakes-and-seeds photo by vsimon
Seeds, Flakes and Flour
My regular grocery store stocks quinoa seeds, flakes, and flour. I use all of them. The seeds are my favorite though. The tiny circular seeds cook to a fluffy texture and pleasant mild flavor. I love the seeds for hot breakfast cereal, warm pilafs and cold salads. I will be posting some of these recipes in the future.
Quinoa seeds cook in only 15 minutes, much quicker than whole grain rice. You can use it in place of rice in many dishes. Quinoa comes in white and natural red colors. I have only used the white, which seems a more versatile color to me.
The flakes are often used for hot cereal. Some describe the flavor and texture as mild and smooth. Think baby’s first food, like pablum. Some, my husband, call it mushy. He prefers the texture of cooked oatmeal.
The flakes really shine in fruit crisp toppings. See the recipe below.
I use the flour in breads and other baked goods. I do find the flour strong tasting. If it is a very large percentage of the flour in the dish, it can taste a bit soapy. Or like a lingering flavor of too much baking soda. So I use it when I am adding other flavorful ingredients.
rhubarb-cherry-crisp-with-quinoa-flake-topping photo by vsimon
Summer Fruit Crisp
A summer fruit crisp is a tasty way to get acquainted with quinoa flakes. I use the topping for any number of fruits, singly and in combination.
Today we make rhubarb cherry crisp. You could just as easily use blueberries, peaches or apples. Use less sugar in the filling with sweeter fruit.
You can also use pretty much any whole grain gluten free flour you like. But do not use soy flour, you will ruin the taste of perfectly good fruit.
You can bake the crisp in a medium pan, or use ramekins for individual servings. And the crisp freezes well. Make a lot and have some later in the week, or much later in the winter. I like to use pyrex containers with lids. The bottom is oven safe and the lid works great in the freezer. They are easy to stack too.
Rhubarb and Cherry Crisp
7/8 c sugar, divided
½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup sorghum flour
½ cup nuts
¼ cup oil
6 cups total chopped rhubarb and tart cherries, in any combination
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix ½ cup sugar, quinoa flakes, sorghum flour, nuts and oil.
Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 inch oven safe glass or ceramic pan. Or six individual ramekins. Put in the fruit, and sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Crumble the topping over the fruit.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is toasty. Cool a bit before devouring, or you will burn your mouth.
Do you like quinoa as much as I do? What do you do with it?
Added 6-14-09 This rhubarb was the last of the season from our garden. I am happily submitting this post and recipe to Grow Your Own recipe roundup using our home grown produce. Hosted this time by Zora of gardenopolis.