Let's talk Quinoa. Quinoa is getting a lot of press these days since some give it 'Superfood' status. While quinoa is most often treated like a grain as it is similar to rice in its preparation, it is not a grain, but a pseudocereal like buckwheat and chia and is also closely related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. You read that right - tumbleweeds. After giving it a quick Google, I'm even more confused at to what quinoa is exactly, but I am not confused in the least when it comes to whether I love it or not - I totally DO!
Quinoa can attribute its rising popularity to its nutritional value. It is a complete protein which means it contains an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids. Fantastic! But what does that mean exactly? It means that quinoa is on par with animal protein sources and is a great option for vegetarians and vegans. In addition to the high protein aspect, it is also high in fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Since quinoa is not a grain, it is gluten-free and at one point was being considered as a potential crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System. This little plant is SO awesome that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa!!
So, to celebrate, let's eat some quinoa! I came across this recipe a while back on allrecipes.com and have made a slightly modified version a quite a few times now. With these ingredients, I've been unknowingly creating a dish that was a nod to quinoa's South American roots. Enjoy!
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
-1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
-2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
2. Mix quinoa into the onions and garlic.
3. Add vegetable broth, cumin, salt, and pepper.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until quinoa has absorbed most of the broth - approximately 20 minutes.
5. Add beans and corn. Warm through, stirring often - about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in cilantro.
This recipe makes a LARGE amount of quinoa, so you will have leftovers. I enjoyed this a few days later with some asparagus and an egg sunny side up! Breaking the yolk over the quinoa is so creamy and decadent - I highly recommend it!
Just a few things to keep in mind...
-RINSE YOUR BEANS AND RINSE THEM WELL!!! The first time I made this, I did not read the recipe very carefully and only drained them. I had bean-flavored quinoa. You have been warned.
-The original recipe calls for 1 cup frozen corn kernels, but it's just more convenient for me to use a can of corn.
-The original recipe also calls for 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, but I'm a big baby when it comes to spice, so I just skip that. If you want to give this a little kick, add the cayenne when you add the cumin.
-The cilantro is best fresh, so you may only want to mix some into the portion you will be eating right away, but keep in mind, it does not last very long in the fridge.
-Lastly, make sure to season this well. Personally, I like to add some seasoning salt right before serving...but that's not very culinary, or appropriate for an ethnic dish. It's your call.