Before I get into how I’m not torturing poverty-stricken Bolivian farmers by eating quinoa, let’s talk a little bit about why I’m eating it after more than 3 years of largely avoiding grains.
Aside from the fact that it’s freaking delicious, reasonably nutritious when properly prepared and not really a grain.
Grains are the seeds from grasses; quinoa is the seed from a broadleaf plant that is closely related to spinach and beets. This makes it what is called a pseudograin – it looks like a grain and cooks like a grain but botanically isn’t a grain. Which is all fine and dandy, but it still contains all those awful lectins and phytates plus an added bonus of saponins – a bitter-tasting coating on the outside of the seed that makes for one nasty meal if not completely rinsed away.
Most commercially available quinoas (which, like lentils, come in a variety of colors) are pre-rinsed, but you should always rinse them again before cooking just to make sure. And, like most grains, you’ll get a lot more out of them if you soak or sprout it beforehand. Quinoa sprouts pretty easily – unlike most grains and legumes, soaking it in warm, filtered water for as little as 12 hours will cause it to sprout, which also reduces the cooking time by as much as 1/3.
Unfortunately, quinoa has gotten a bad rap lately. It’s traditionally grown in South America and has been a dietary staple there for thousands of years. Its growing popularity worldwide in recent years has caused concerns about the sustainability of the crops there, as well as diminishing quinoa’s status as a staple – it’s far more profitable for farmers to sell than consume. Now, having said that, some varieties are pretty hardy and can be grown in other climates – there is widespread farming of quinoa in Europe, the US and Canada. The quinoa I purchase comes from the bulk bins at our local natural food store (making it cheaper than the packaged stuff) and is grown in Canada.
Beloved and I also love the stuff, which is the main reason we’re eating it. But after 3 years of forcing foods that aren’t rice or pasta or wheat or whatever isn’t “allowed” in a paleo diet into behaving like foods that are rice or pasta or wheat or whatever, I started to wonder why I don’t just go ahead and eat them from time to time? Muffins, cakes, breads, ice creams, cookies, candies and all those other delicious treats that people work so hard to recreate – yes, myself included – really shouldn’t be eaten every day no matter what they’re made from (the one exception being “noodles” made from vegetables. But it still isn’t the same). I still make all of these things from scratch from the best quality ingredients I can find, I still don’t eat industrial seed oils or prepackaged crap and we still don’t eat out nearly as often as the average American. If I eat something and it makes me feel bad or sick, I don’t eat it again and so far, a slice of sourdough bread and a serving of quinoa, beans or soaked brown rice a couple of times a week, homemade pasta once or twice a month and a dessert once in a blue moon isn’t killing me. In fact, I’m feeling pretty okay these days, and after the menopausal hell of the last 5 years or so, that’s not a bad thing. Not bad at all.
Anyhoo – quinoa. My favorite way to prepare it is in homemade chicken broth with diced onion and garlic that’s been sauteed in ghee – it is just delicious.
This salad was made with leftover quinoa cooked in just that manner, as well as some leftover salmon that I’d attempted to prepare (at too high a temperature – oops) in the sous vide. It may not have been the best entree I’ve ever cooked, but chilled and flaked into this salad the salmon was great. Throw in a little diced apple, finely chopped herbs, a light vinaigrette and some salad greens, and this was a marvelous light lunch – just what my body has been craving after this absurdly long, harsh winter.
Click the image to enlarge
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 4 ounces cooked salmon, flaked
- 1 small apple, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 4 cups salad greens
- Whisk together the vinegar, honey and olive oil in a small bowl until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, salmon, apple, mint and parsley. Drizzle with the dressing and toss again until evenly coated. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- Divide the greens between two plates and top with the quinoa salad.
- Nutrition (per serving): 393 calories, 20.2g total fat, 40.3mg cholesterol, 51.4mg sodium, 791.2mg potassium, 34.2g carbohydrates, 5.3g fiber, 9.6g sugar, 20g protein