Before this year, I had never made or even heard of the grain-esque crop called quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). It wasn't until last fall, when I took a healthy cooking class, that I first learned about quinoa and its amazing health benefits. I believe quinoa has gained a lot of popularity recently because it is a highly nutritious carbohydrate that provides a much healthier alternative to rice and white pasta. It is high in fiber, which keeps the digestive system running smoothly, is a great source of magnesium, and contains all 9 essential amino acids that are required by the body. I could keep going on and on about the health benefits of quinoa, but if you're interested, here is a great resource: Quinoa & Your Health.
Obviously I was instantly sold on the idea of trying to replace rice with quinoa. I went to the supermarket and bought a box, but for some reason it was left untouched in my kitchen cabinet. I was [mistakenly] under the impression that quinoa is harder to make, when really it's just as simple as cooking rice. So for those of you who were as confused as me, here is a simple recipe for quinoa that works well as a side dish or even an entrée:
Ingredients (makes 6 servings)
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 ripe but firm mango, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lime juice
Approx. 10 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
I ended up using an entire mango and a little less onion because I prefer the sweet taste of the mango much more in this recipe. But the proportions are really up to the person cooking.
1. Rinse the quinoa well in a strainer. This step is very important, because without a proper rinsing, the quinoa will taste too bitter. My method for rinsing is to line a colander with a few paper towels. Add the quinoa and run under cold water for 2 minutes.
2. Once the water has drained out of the colander, put the quinoa into a medium-sized pot and add 3 cups of chicken broth.
[*Two things to note: a) The 1:2 proportion used when making rice also applies to quinoa, so since we are using 1 1/2 cups of quinoa, we use 3 cups of chicken broth. b) You can either use chicken broth or just water to boil the quinoa. I prefer chicken broth because it gives the dish much more flavor. But water can most definitely be used to make this recipe vegetarian!]
3. Bring the quinoa to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cover. Once the water has evaporated, approx 10-15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
4. In a serving bowl, combine and stir the jalapeño, onion, mango, oil, salt, and lime juice. Add quinoa and toss to combine. Add salt to taste.
5. Just before serving, sprinkle in the fresh basil. This dish can be served warm or cold.
Hopefully you are now inspired to try quinoa!