Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah), is used as a whole grain, & has been an ancient food that is cultivated in South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. It has been a staple food of the native inhabitants. “The ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and revered it as sacred. Each year at planting time it was traditional for the Inca leader to plant the first quinoa seed using a solid gold shovel!” (Quinoa from Andes, has great information on Quinoa).
Quinoa is actually not a true grain, but a seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It is however treated as a grain & often called “little rice“. There are 3 varieties available, White- the most common one, Red & Black. These little seeds are great in salads, soups, stews or stir fries.Quinoa rates very high in its nutritional value; “…as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthful choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.” (Wiki)
We recently discovered quinoa, & it has become a big part of our diet. It is gluten free, high in protein & makes a obvious choice for healthy eating. A few days a week, our lunch consists of some kind of salad cooked with quinoa. Here is what I did for our lunch last week… a slightly fruity salad with fresh apricots & asparagus.
Quinoa with Apricot, Asparagus & Almond
Ingredients: (serves 2)
For the Apricots:
- 5-6 Ripe Apricots, halved and pitted
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
For the Asparagus:
- 10 Spears of Asparagus, only the tender parts
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Other Things you need:
- 3/4 Cup Quinoa
- 1.5 Cups of Water
- 1/2 Cup Almonds, lightly toasted in the oven or on a skillet
- Few Grapes, halved (I used Black Grapes) – Optional
- Few Hot Chili Peppers, Sliced Thin
- 1.5 Tablespoons Honey
- Salt & Pepper
Cooking the Quinoa:
Lightly toast the Quinoa in skillet till they are very faint brown. Cool them.
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer.
Heat the quinoa and water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up. Quinoa is done when you can see the white curly in each grain. They will be tender to bite but with a slight pop. Drain any extra water.
[Quinoa can be cooked in the Rice Cooker too; Use 2 parts of water to 1 part of quinoa & combine them in the rice cooker. Cook as per the instruction of the Rice Cooker]
Fluff the cooked Quinoa with a fork.
Grilling the Apricots:
Heat grill or a cast iron grill pan over high heat on a stove. In a bowl, toss together apricots, olive oil, salt, and pepper. (if if you do have a grill or a grill pan, just cook them in a pan over high heat).
Grill apricots, cut side down, until marked and they begin to soften, about a couple of minute. Turn them over & cook about a minute on the skin side.
Slice them when cooled & set aside.
Cooking the Asparagus:
Snap off tough ends of asparagus and wash well. Cut half of the asparagus spears diagonally in 1 inch pieces.
Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil & the asparagus in a large zip lock plastic bag, & let it sit for half an hour.
Preheat grill on high heat. Remove asparagus from bag and place on preheated oiled grill rack. Grill for a few minutes on each side or until asparagus is done, but not limp. They should still be crisp. Again if you do have have a grill, just do it in a pan on high heat.
Putting them all together:
Combine cooked quinoa, apricots, asparagus, almonds,peppers & grapes. Drizzle the honey & add the salt & pepper. Toss & serve at room temperature.
This is the first time I have used fruits in a quinoa salad & loved the combination of the sweet, tart & the spicy in it. Sending this healthy delicious salad HOTM, the theme is A; any ingredient or dish starting with A. It is hosted by Ilva of Lucullian Delights.