Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summery quinoa salad

Revered by the ancient Incas as the "mother grain", quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is quickly becoming the hot new superfood. Sown seasonally by the Incan emperor with a gold shovel, quinoa has always provided those who enjoy it with its many health benefits. Incan armies were sustained by a diet high in quinoa. Those in Peru, Chile and Bolica cultivated it also for its nutritional value.

Although often associated with grains, quinoa is actually a seed related to leafy greens, including spinach and swiss chard. This gluten-free food is fluffy and chewy in texture, subtley nutty in flavour and has an impressive nutritional profile:
  • a complete protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids neede for tissue development
  • excellent source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium and copper
A bitter coating consisting of Saponins keeps birds and other animals from chowing down on the crops. For this reason, and also because little stones and bits of dirts can be transported with it to your local grocery store, you may want to give it a good rinsing before you enjoy it. Some also roast it very lightly in a frying pan to accentuate the nutty flavour. Personally, I'm way too lazy for that.

Quinoa is super easy and fast to cook, taking only about 10-15 minutes. It's also a versatile food. Warm and sweetened with a bit of agave or honey, it can be enjoyed as a breakfast cereal. As an alternative for rice, it's an excellent base for stew or curry. Cold, it's lovely atop a green salad - or as a salad in and of its self.

My mom is somewhat an expert at making salads that go beyond your standard green lettuce fare. Her salads have always been among my favourite foods, combining intricate blends of flavours and being incredibly healthy. Inspired by her boundless imagination when it comes to finding delicious and creative new combinations of flavours and textures, this dish was made.

2/3 cup brown quinoa, cooked
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed well
1 avocado chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 can black olives, sliced
pinch salt
pinch cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and dress with an olive oil/balsamic vinagrette or miso dressing.

miso dressing
1 tbsp mellow yellow miso
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water

mix well



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