I can’t believe I’m so late in discovering quinoa.
I have probably been avoiding it for a long time because it sounds terribly healthy and boring.
Even its name sounds funky: KEEN-WAH. It’s one of those names that you’re never sure you’re actually pronouncing right, so you just avoid saying it, ordering it, buying it and making it. At least I did.
Yes, it’s healthy and that’s a good thing. But boring, no way! Now that I know its brilliance, I can tell you that it’s light and fluffy and earthy and nutty and easy to make and delicious! And you can replace your plain old white rice with this healthy stuff and it tastes EVEN BETTER. Who knew? OK, maybe you did, but I didn’t.
Actually, the first time I had it was last year. I work sort of near the train station in Chicago (which used to be called Union Station and is now called Ogilvie Transportation Center) which is home to an awesome French market.
You should definitely check this place out if you happen to find yourself heading in or out of our city via the Metra. So many delicious things to try in there, including a salmon dish that I had for lunch one day. It came from “Wisma“, inside the market.
On their menu this entrée I ordered is called, “Sustainable ocean raised salmon with organic Bolivian white quinoa, asparagus, preserved lemon-oregano vinaigrette.”
Boy does that sound fancy.
Now that I’m writing this I’m thinking that ocean raised probably isn’t the best choice of salmon, right? Aren’t we supposed to be eating wild caught and not farmed salmon? Does ocean raised mean farmed? Oh well, that’s for another post.
So, I was at the French market with my amazingly fabulous boss, Al (he made me say that), who highly recommended this fancy salmon and so I had to try it. I love salmon, but I wasn’t thrilled about the quinoa that was coming along with it (how judgmental of me!) but I went for it.
Well, the salmon was perfectly delicious and hopefully safe to eat. But OH MY GOODNESS the quinoa actually out-shined the salmon. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I was shocked. So light and fluffy and lemony, and you could taste the olive oil and sea salt. WOW. I couldn’t get enough. I immediately felt like I had been missing out on this quinoa business for way too long because I never gave it a chance.
Quinoa is amazing. But what is it exactly?
I know it’s a whole grain and really good for you, but I Googled it to get a few more details for us. It’s a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. So we’re actually eating the seeds of the quinoa plant.
Of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content. It provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free and cholesterol-free whole grain, and is almost always organic.
That all sounds really good to me, especially because I have sort of upped my healthy eating a notch or two recently. I watched this documentary called FOOD MATTERS on Netflix and it really opened my eyes to the healing powers of the plant world. I always knew somewhere in the back of my brain that I should be eating mostly plants (fruits and vegetables), but it didn’t really sink in until recently. Basically what I learned from the film is that plants are very healing and by dousing our systems with loads of veggies, we are setting ourselves up with lots of protection against whatever is going to come up (we all have our issues). And if you eat enough of them, you can take care of some issues that you may have going on currently.
This makes sense to me and I really do believe that what we put into our body matters, so I decided to buy a juicer to get more veggies into me. I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I have ever purchased.
I usually start out with a green apple for some sweetness, and then I add some combination of kale, carrots, lemon, spinach, Swiss chard, cranberries, cucumber & parsley. I’ve also tried beets and celery and I’m not a huge fan of either when it comes to drinking that stuff. Oh, and cabbage as well. Why did I ever think that would taste good as a juice? Not for me.
Did you ever juice anything? It’s kind of fun. The machine gets really roaring and then you shove the veggies down a tube and they just explode into juice. Of course when we first got the juicer, Hadley wanted to juice everything. She said to me, “This is so much fun!” as apples and carrots were bursting. And then when the juice all blended together and came out a dark green color, she looked at it and said, “Ewwwww, gross. You’re actually gonna drink that?”
I can’t get her to drink a veggie juice with breakfast yet, but I have hope. For now, she’s sticking to fruit smoothies.
I never really knew that fresh, just squeezed vegetable juice could be so good! I have been doing it for 6 weeks and I love it. Every morning I have a fresh green veggie drink on my way to work, and I noticed that my nagging case of Collywobbles has virtually cleared up!
I’m kidding, I don’t have Collywobbles, I made them up. But who knows what I’m warding off, and it makes me happy knowing I’m doing something good for my body each day. (Cleaning the juicer every day is kind of a pain, but it’s worth it.)
I digress. Back to the quinoa.
The first time I made this, I made it for Hadley and myself.
I just sort of threw this recipe together because I had a leek and some mushrooms in the fridge, so I sautéed those, made the quinoa and then tossed it all together with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh arugula. WOW!
Super delicious. The baby mushrooms give it some heartiness and the leeks and olive oil and sea salt give it great flavor. I always like a little freshness thrown in too, so I threw in some arugula at the end and it was perfect. Hadley absolutely loved it. We were both surprised it was so good, I think we actually polished off the whole bowl. I can’t describe how happy it makes me to see my child eating this stuff. :)
I feel the sneaky secret to this tasting so good is cooking the quinoa in chicken broth. Just like the water you would normally cook rice in, use chicken broth to cook the quinoa. Just one simple change adds so much flavor! And if you want a meatless version, I would try vegetable broth for some added flavor.
Speaking of eating more plants (earlier), I started my CSA, or community supported agriculture, back up. Mine is Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks and I’m excited to say my second box arrived last Friday.
A brown bag of tasty little Shitake mushrooms showed up, along with some kale. This is what’s fun for me. It’s like my own little version of Chopped (do you watch that show?) without the competition. Whatever shows up in my box on Friday, I have to use and figure out new ways of cooking it all week. Food geek fun.
So I made this a second time for a dinner with my friend, the lovely and talented Michael (who is one of the biggest carnivores I know) and he gave it a big thumbs up! This time I used the Shitake mushrooms which I sautéed and the kale that I wilted. So delicious! I just love those Shitake mushrooms so much.
I’m really looking forward to experimenting with quinoa and all the veggies that will be coming this spring and summer in my CSA box (if I don’t drink them first!). I’m thinking sautéed asparagus, lemon, oregano, olive oil and maybe some wild caught grilled salmon to start.
Quinoa with Leeks and Baby Portobellos
(Serves 3 as a side dish)
One leek, sliced
(1) carton of baby portobellos, (about 16-20), sliced chunky
(1) cup quinoa (dry, any kind)
(1) can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
fresh arugula, couple of handfuls
(2) tbsp. olive oil, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the quinoa well.
Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain.
Dry and toast quinoa: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to the lowest setting, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, add (2) tbsp. of olive oil to a pan and sauté the leeks until they soften. Add the mushrooms and stir continually until they brown. Add a pinch or two of sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Set aside.
After 15 minutes, turn the heat off the quinoa and let stand for another 5 minutes. Fold the leeks and mushroom mixture gently into the quinoa and fluff with a fork. Add a splash of olive oil and some sea salt and black pepper to taste. Top with arugula.
YUM! Serve with fish, meat….just about anything. Even on it’s own!
Note: (1) cup of dry quinoa makes about (3) cups cooked.