Meet quinoa. It’s a good-for-you “grain” (I’ll tell you why that is in quotes shortly) that looks and behaves similarly to couscous … though the two are not related. It can be used in place of rice or couscous for whatever you might be making.
But what is it? Well, it’s natural — not processed or anything. And lately, it seems that everywhere I turn, I hear about this unfamiliar food. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is a relative of ultra-healthy leafy green veggies and also high in antioxidants, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually a grain (hence the quotes above).
So, after hearing and reading about it, I got really curious. Is quinoa something that my family might like? Could it be a healthier take on our fav sides of couscous, rice or potatoes?
Quinoa is one of those foods that will take on the flavors of whatever you cook it with, making it pretty versatile as a side dish. The first time I made it (after heading a few towns over to the natural foods store where I could buy just the amount we needed from the bulk bin), I cooked it in chicken stock and seasoned it with garlic and basil. It was very good. Will practically inhaled his and once Paige was finally convinced to try hers, she ate most of it too. As for Shawn, he said that while it’s not his favorite, it’s definitely something he will eat again. I really liked it myself.
I’ve since refined my method, using vegetable stock instead and adding in cheese. It’s got a lovely nuttiness that works so well with the combination of basil, garlic and Parmesan — it reminds me of a good summer pesto.
As for locating quinoa? Not the easiest thing. In fact, my search made me wish I had bought more from the get-go. It certainly wasn’t the easiest thing to find. On my first trip to look for it, I came up empty handed at two stores. Then I headed to that health food store and found it. After that, I gave a closer look at one of my local grocery stores and found one (yes, one) bag of it, on the top shelf, with the couscous and rice. So, lesson learned: you have to really seek this one out … and you should. It’s really very good.
Here’s what you need to know (and what I learned from my food-loving friends on Twitter):
- To make, you use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.
- You cook it basically like couscous — boil the liquid, add the quinoa, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Then you season and serve.
- Rinse it before cooking. This is very important.
- People who’ve tried it largely love it.
Have you had quinoa? What flavors do you like to mix it with?
Garlic, Basil and Parmesan Quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth/stock
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped (alternatively, use 3 cubes fresh frozen basil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt (sea salt or Kosher)
Bring the broth/stock to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in the basil, garlic, cheese and salt until fully combined.