Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quinoa - The Exotic Grain

Quinoa (pronounced keen'wa) is an exquisitely textured and delicately flavored cereal grain.  Due to its rich nutrient profile it has been gaining popularity in recent years.  One of my clients recently commented that he ordered the quinoa encrusted chicken just so he could show his prowess as gourmet foodie by pronouncing it correctly!  Quinoa is a gluten free grain, has a low glycemic index (ideal for weight loss and sustained energy) and contains the 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  It is also simple to cook.  It cooks just like rice but faster.  In 20 mins you can have a bowl of hot steaming quinoa. Use a rice cooker for even greater simplicity.  If you have one with a timer, set it to cook so that it is ready when you get home from work (or up in the morning) - it's almost like having your own personal chef!

Quinoa is one of my favorite grains not only from its nutrient profile and ease of use but also taste and appearance.  It has a subtle taste that absorbs the flavors it is cooked with.  Throw in a cinnamon stick and you have a wonderfully North African scented dish.  Add some milk and cranberries and you have a rich creamy lightly sweetened grain. Cook it with some chicken stock with fresh corn, cilantro and yellow peppers and you have a delicious side dish. I could go on and on, but check out the quinoa recipes on this blog.   Quinoa also comes in a variety of colors - ivory (the most common), pink, red and black.   I love red quinoa - it has a slightly fruity flavor and provides a lovely juxtaposition against the greens of a leafy salad.

One more tip - always wash the quinoa before you cook with it.  Don't skip this in the interests of time. Your quinoa will exhibit a bitter quality due to its saponin coating. If you haven't washed it your quinoa will produce a soapy looking 'sud' -  in South America, they use the saponin as a detergent for washing clothes.  Ewh - you don't want that in your body.

Deliciously Decadent Quinoa with Cranberries 
Prep and Cook Time: 20 mins    Serves: 4

1 cup organic fair trade quinoa
2 cups of water
1/2 cup hemp or organic cows milk (optional)
1 teaspoon of raw honey
1 tablespoon of organic cranberries
1 tablespoon of flaked almonds

1.  Add water and quinoa to rice cook and cook for 20 mins
2. Allow quinoa to cool for 5 mins
3.  Serve quinoa in bowls and top with milk and cranberries  
4. Drizzle with honey and top with flaked almonds

Substitutions: replace the cranberries with apricots, peaches, berries or mango.  

Coconut, Mint and Mango Quinoa Porridge
As above but simply top with quinoa with fresh mango, mint and drizzle with a tablespoon of coconut milk.

Quinoa with Corn, Mint and Scallions
Steamed quinoa has a delicate, fluffy texture. If you can get freshly picked organic corn, add it to the salad raw. Even without cooking, the kernels will be sweet and tender. Corn is one of the most heaviest sprayed crops, so always try to select organic. This recipe was inspired by a quinoa and corn recipe from Gourmet Traveller.
Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves 8

4 organic corn cobs (shucked)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tsp mild honey
1 tbl almond oil (alternative olive oil)
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups quinoa (about 10 oz)
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1. Place corn in a wide pot. Add water to cover and bring to a boil
2. Remove from heat and let the corn stand for 5 minutes to cool
3. Transfer corn to a cutting board and cut kernels off cobs with a large heavy knife
4. Whisk together lemon zest and juice, honey, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined
5. Cook quinoa in a rice cooker or a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes
6. To steam the quinoa, drain in the quinoa in a sieve, then set the sieve over same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve)
7. Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy, and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes
8. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, mint, and salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

This is one of my favorite weekend breakfasts.  It is not only ravishingly decadent, but is packed with phytonutrients from the wild blueberries and buckwheat. While most of us are aware of the antioxidant capacity of blueberries, buckwheat is also loaded with powerful free radical scavengers, namely rutin.  In addition, rutin helps to strengthen capillaries which improves circulation, gives your skin a peachy glow and helps mitigate cellulite! Buckwheat is also ideal for anyone limiting their wheat intake as it is gluten free.  It is also a complete protein for any of those vegetarians out there. Simply add a scoop of thick, creamy yogurt and you have a perfectly balanced, nutrient dense meal that is absurdly delicious.  Enjoy!

Prep and Cook Time: 30 Mins   Serves: 6
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour or quinoa flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large organic eggs
1 cup organic milk
1 ripe banana, chopped
1 1/2 cups wild blueberries, fresh or frozen eg Traders Joe's wild blueberries
Grapeseed oil for brushing the griddle
2% Greek Yogurt (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, blend together the flours, the baking powder and the salt
2. Add the chopped banana and blend the mixture until it resembles fine meal
3. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and the milk, add the flour mixture, and whisk the batter until it is combined well
4. Let the batter stand for 5 minutes and stir in the blueberries
5.  Preheat the oven to 200°F. Heat a griddle over moderate heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with the oil

6.  Spoon the batter onto the griddle to form 6-inch rounds and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden
7. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve
8. Top with 2% Greek Yogurt such as
Trader Joe's 2% Greek Yogurt