While cutting way, way, way back on white flour and white rice, which used to make up the bulk of my diet, Iíve gone in search of replacement grains from the low end of the glycemic scale. Iím having fun with brown and wild rice and barley and buckwheat. And lately Iíve turned my eye onto a more precious and interesting grain-like food: Quinoa.
Pronounced, Keen-Wa. Like our good friend buckwheat, this is a grain that isnít a grain. A great source of protein, actually, quinoa can look, serve, behave, like a grain, while giving you the flavor, fiber, iron, and magnesium of a vegetable.
Quinoa is really the seed of a spinach-like plant, and was an important staple to the diets of the Incas. Itís much more familiar in South America than North America, though recent interest State-side during the past decade or two makes it not at all hard to find quinoa in supermarkets where I live. Of course youíll find it easily in health food stores all over the world.
Cook quinoa as you would brown rice, rinsing it first, then cooking it in two measures of water for every one of grain. It cooks in about the same time as rice in a rice cooker or pressure cooker, or over the stove, bubbling low until all the liquid is gathered up.
Youíll find lots of quinoa recipes online at epicurious.com. I like using quinoa in any recipe where I might have used pasta or bulgur wheat. Itís terrific in cold salads, as a bed for roasted meat and fish. Make it into a pilaf, a bed for your veggie stir-fry, an interesting addition to your multi-grain muffins.
Because of its high protein and fiber counts, quinoa comes in low on the glycemic scale (at around 35), and so itís one of the only grains Iím comfortable eating all by itself when I donít feel well and nothing sounds good. It has never triggered cravings for high-sugar foods the way other grains, eaten alone, can for me.
But the real reason I like it, despite its rather high price when compared with other grains, is its flavor. It has a lovely green flavor. If a flavor can be a color. I like the way it crunches and pops on the tongue without ever being sticky or pasty. It has a clean, crisp, healthy, satisfying bite. So easy to prepare and easy to use, Iím looking forward to the day more farms raise it to bring the prices down.