Quinoa. I am surprised I have not written about this ancient super grain before. I started eating quinoa in college. Back "then," my roommates and I thought we had discovered a rare and unusual accompaniment to our otherwise ordinary menus. This was back when it wasn't yet available at your neighborhood Trader Joe's - a whole 5 years ago.
Anyway, it was still pretty special in our eyes. We thought it was so cool that we could substitute it for brown rice when we made our favorite chicken curry recipe or add it to soups and salads. Yeah, we thought we were special. In the know. On the forefront.
By now, pretty much everyone knows what quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is. However, some have no idea what to do with it.
I like to use quinoa as I would use any other grain - in cereals, baked goods, as an accompaniment to main dishes, in soups and stews, and tossed into salads. Quinoa is unique because it is a complete protein, containing a balanced set of essential amino acids. For you vegans/vegetarians, there could not be a better superfood. Skip the soy. Go quinoa.
I made this quinoa salad up from ingredients I picked up at this past Saturday's Santa Barbara Farmers Market: beautiful purple kale and heirloom tomatoes from Roots Farm, perfectly crunchy and sweet carrots and chickpeas from Tom Shepherd's Farm, french beans from Givens Farm and Meyer lemon from Friend's Ranch to dress it up. Because I wanted to make it as nutrient dense as possible, I made sure to use all raw vegetables. Tossing the warm quinoa with the vegetables and lemon juice dressing takes the raw "edge" off.
Feel free to create your own combination based on what you find at your local market. The possibilities, as always, are endless.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/3 cup cooked chickpeas
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup sliced tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced green beans
juice of 2 Meyer lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
While quinoa is cooking, prepare the vegetables. You can use dried, fresh or canned chickpeas. If you use dried, soak them overnight and then simmer them in fresh water until tender. If using fresh, skip the soaking and go right to the simmering.
Toss the chickpeas and prepared vegetables in lemon juice and olive oil. Let set until quinoa is ready.
Once quinoa has cooled slightly, toss with other ingredients. Season with sea salt to taste.
Enjoy warm, room temperature, or chilled.