Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is somewhat new in our grocery stores, but its been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. Quinoa is a gluten-free plant based seed that is not only high in protein, it also provides all nine essential amino acids necessary for our health. Our bodies can not make these nutrients, so we have to get them from the foods we eat. Just in case you’re wondering as I was, the nine amino acids are: phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine. Ok, that might be more that you cared to read, much less try to pronounce! It’s rich in lysine which we need for promoting healthy tissue growth and also a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium and fiber.
Anyway, the Quinoa seed is a native of South America and is heavily cultivated in Bolivia and Peru. It’s a relative of Swiss chard, spinach and beets. It’s the perfect substitute for pasta, rice and potatoes and higher in nutrients. As a general rule, it’s prepared as rice is prepared. The biggest difference is in the ratio of water. With regular white rice, the ratio is 1 part rice to 1 part water or broth. For Quinoa, it’s 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water or broth. That’s from my experience anyway.
Ok, now that we have a better understanding of what Quinoa is, I want to share my most requested Quinoa dish. It’s Quinoa Pilaf.
My niece turned 20 this year. It’s so hard to get a grasp on that. She should still be 10! Not 20! She has grown into a beautiful, smart, sweet and funny little lady. She’s my favorite niece too and all of my other nieces know that! Ok, she’s my only niece, but my favorite anyway.
My Mom and Dad always have the family over to celebrate each of our birthdays. My Mom does the cooking and my Dad helps in any way that doesn’t involve actually cooking. That’s Mom’s turf and he stays out of it. I try to help in any way I can and I’ll usually take a dish or two. This year, Christina asked me to bring my Quinoa Pilaf and of course I said, “Yes!”. I love making this dish. It is chocked full of flavors and is anything but boring.
Here’s how I make it.
In a 2 quart sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil and add the chopped colored bell peppers, shallot, salt and pepper to the pan and saute’ until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. This will take about 4 minutes.
Drop the heat to medium-low. Add the quinoa, stirring to combine with the vegetables. Continue to occasionally stir and saute’ another 2 minutes to toast the quinoa. This will bring out that nutty taste in the quinoa.
If I have black quinoa on hand, I add about 1 Tablespoon to this. It just gives another color and pop to the dish. You could also add red or any combination of colors you have.
Add the white wine and bring this to a boil. Cook a couple of minutes to cook off the alcohol. You can use any white wine you would like. I tend to use a drier white wine such as Chablis or Chardonnay. If you don’t want to open a bottle just for this recipe, you can use the cooking wines that store so well in the cabinet.
Here’s a tip. If you’re out of dry white wine, you can substitute it by mixing 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1/3 cup of water.
Add the chicken broth.
I always keep chicken base in my refrigerator and make my own chicken stock for this recipe. It’s super simple. Typically it’s one cup of water with one teaspoon of chicken base. I find it to have a richer flavor than the canned chicken broth.
And water and bring it back to a boil.
Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook 20-25 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Do NOT lift the lid during the first 15 minutes or it will loose too much heat and not cook evenly. The low heat setting on my stove takes exactly 25 minutes, but you’ll need to check it the first time or two that you make this dish to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork to make sure all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add the toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine.
Toasting pine nuts is really quick and easy. Here’s how I prepare them. Toasting Pine Nuts
And there you have a fabulous Quinoa Pilaf fit for a Queen! (My Niece, of course)
There are endless ways to fix quinoa. I like to think of it like rice and anything I can do with rice, I try to do with quinoa and it’s much healthier for you! If I’m crunched for time and want a simple quinoa side dish, I’ll prepare it on the stove like rice. I’ll do 1 part dried quinoa to 2 parts liquid. My favorite is using beef broth.
What’s your favorite way to prepare quinoa?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.