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Quinoa: Peru’s “Mother of all Grains”

Quinoa Last week’s  “Morning Edition” on NPR has renewed our interest in the grain of the Incas, quinoa. The popularity of quinoa has brought about change in Bolivia where much of the crop is grown. Read the story on the NPR site, where you can also find links to more healthy & delicious recipes. Our blog from May 2009 is republished below.

After many years of reading about the wonders of Peru’s grain, quinoa, I have always intended to incorporate more of it into my diet.  I have been somewhat intimidated by past recipes that call for repeated soaking and rinsing to remove the bitter coating on the grain.  But when Annie, our CEO and founder, brought in this month’s issue of Gourmet with loads of delectable Peruvian recipes, I knew it was time to give it a try.  The story’s beautiful images and descriptions of colorful veggies and exotic seafoods causes my stomach to rumble, but the recipe for a quinoa salad intrigues me the most.

Quinoa is not technically a grain since it is not from a grass, but is the seed of a leafy spinach-like plant that is grown in the high altitudes of the Andes.  There it has been cultivated for more than 6,000 years, called the “Mother of all Grains” by the Incas.  Traditionally the Incan emperor sowed the season’s first seeds with golden implements. The nutrional value of quinoa shows that it truly deserves its reputation, valued as a complete protein and powerful source of many nutrients. 

Thanks go to Gourmet magazine for this recipe for Quinoa Salad with Fresh Hearts of Palm (now I only feel intimidated by the search for fresh hearts of palm. They do say chayote can be used as a substitute, if cut into matchstick-size pieces to make 2 cups.)

Quinoa Salad with Fresh Hearts of Palm
serves 8
active time: 20 min.     start to finish: 40 min.

1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/2 lb. fresh hearts of palm (not canned)
1/4 c. red-wine vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. packed flat leaf parsley leaves

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a fine-mesh sieve.  Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 min. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot above 1 inch of simmering water.  Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth), then cover with a lid and steam until tender, fluffy and dry, about 15 minutes.  Let stand covered with towel for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile soak onion in a bowl of cold water 5 min. then drain well and pat very dry. Trim ends of hearts of palm, then cut crosswise into very thin slices.

Whisk together vinegar, oil, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper in large bowl.  Toss quinoa, onion, hearts of palm, and parsley with dressing.

More Quinoa recipes from 101 Cookbooks (vegetarian) and Epicurious

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5 Responses to Quinoa: Peru’s “Mother of all Grains”

  1. admin@buyquinoa.com' Buy Quinoa says:

    Excellent recipe – thanks for sharing! I would like to feature it at my site about quinoa with a link back – let me know if that would be ok.
    – Peter

  2. dobsonkp@msn.com' Kathy Dobson says:

    This sounds delicious! I’ll try it but I’m not sure where to find the quinoa and I’m going to use canned hearts of Palm as I have no idea where to find fresh(and I love hearts of palm so don’t want to substitute.)If I find the quinoa, I’ll let you know how it turns out! Thanks, Kathy

  3. PC~Amy says:

    You should be able to find quinoa in the bulk section of a health foods store, or it can also be sold in boxes in the health foods section. Good luck and bon appetit!

  4. nekcam@hotmail.com' Carmela says:

    Didn’t you use to have a blog that had plenty of peruvian recipes along with a tiny story of each dish. I bookmarked the page, and now it says it no longer exists. Would you please help me out??

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