April 10, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

So what is Quinoa? For one, its New Veggie #25. Quinoa, or Keen-wa, is often referred to as Inca Rice. According to fossil records, it has been consumed in Peru, Equador, Bolivia and Chile for at least 5000 years. It is a grain like crop, a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), that is considered a pseudo-cereal as it is not a member of the grass family like wheat, rice, millets, rye etc. It falls in the same plant family as beets and spinach, so is a 'green' more than a 'grain'. 

In Northern India, the green leaves are eaten extensively and it is known as Bathuwa (Hindi: बथुआ). Unlike other cereals that are commonly consumed, Quinoa is very high in protein content (~18%) and is an excellent source of essential amino acids, dietary fiber, and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and relatively easy to digest as compared to some of the other grains. The Quinoa seed coat contains saponins, glycosides that make the seed unpalatable to insects and also to humans. Most Quinoa sold in the United States has the seed coat removed so this isn't an issue of great concern. 

Preparing Quinoa: Most colanders will not hold Quinoa very well because the raw seeds are rather small. To rinse, use either a metal-mesh strainer, or a cheese cloth. Rinse the seeds in ample amounts of water. For every cup of Quinoa, bring 1.25 cups of water or vegetable broth to a rolling boil in a deep lidded saucepan. Add quinoa, reduce heat to a simmer, and then reduce further to low. Cover and cook for ~20-25 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, and let sit for another 5-7 minutes, before removing the lid and fluffing the contents. Quinoa seeds like to show you when they're ready to eat :) the grain swells up to almost twice its size, becomes translucent and the germ ring pops out, forming a spiral around the seed. For salads, you may want to cool the quinoa, before it is chilled. In order to do that, transfer the steamed quinoa from the saucepan to a large plate, let it sit until it reaches room temperature and then transfer to a storage container. 

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