Quinoa: The Ancient Grain Superfood

  • 07/25/2013
  • RLn

by: Lori Lynn Hirsch Stokoe, Contributing Writer

Popularity of this nutrient-rich “pseudo cereal” has exploded in recent years.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is called the ancient grain super food, having been cultivated in the Andes mountain regions of South America for five millennia. Along with maize, quinoa was the main food source of the Incas.

Gluten-free, high in protein, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities and a good source of fiber alas, it is not a grain at all, but a seed. It is called a pseudo cereal because it is a broadleaf plant that is grown for grain, unlike most cereals, which come from grassy plants. Its scientific name is Chenopodium quinoa. Chenopods are herbaceous flowering plants known as the goosefoots, which also include spinach and beets. There are more than 200 hundred varieties of quinoa that have adapted to diverse growing conditions -high altitudes, thin air, cool nights, dry weather. Peru and Bolivia are the largest commercial producers.

Now that the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has declared the year 2013, “The International Year of Quinoa.” It’s time to give this versatile, easy-to-prepare super food a try.

Seeds can be black, red, pink, orange, yellow, or white in color. Quinoa is prepared in a method similar to rice. Simply bring one part rinsed quinoa and two parts water to a boil, then simmer, covered, until cooked, about 15 minutes. When the quinoa is ready, the germ, appearing as a translucent white spiral will be evident in each seed. Cooked quinoa is fluffy like couscous, creamy like rice, slightly crunchy with a nutty taste reminiscent of sesame seeds. Enjoy it for breakfast, tossed in a salad, stirred into soup. Serve it as a substitute for noodles or rice. Add cooked quinoa to ground beef to increase fiber and nutrients in burgers or let quinoa shine on its own, as a bright side dish or a vegetarian main course.

My “Sweet Sour Spicy Quinoa” makes a terrific side dish for grilled meat, chicken and fish.



1 cup uncooked white quinoa

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon lime juice

zest from 1 lime

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 Serrano peppers, finely sliced

1/2 cup scallion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup pineapple, small dice

1/4 cup papaya, small dice

1/3 cup pomegranate arils

10 basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

1/4 cup slivered almonds



Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Meanwhile combine olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add Serrano, scallion, pineapple, papaya, and pomegranate arils. Let fruit mixture sit to meld flavors while quinoa comes to room temperature. Combine quinoa with the fruit mixture. Taste and adjust salt, olive oil, or lime juice as needed. Just before serving, toss in the basil and almonds. Super food!

Lori Lynn Hirsch Stokoe blogs about food, wine, and entertaining at Taste With The Eyes http://www.tastewiththeeyes.com and tweets as Tasteblog at https://twitter.com/tasteblog.

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