All About Quino

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Leslie Cerier is the author of Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, A Seasonal Vegetarian Cookbook, one of the Top Cookbooks of 2010 as chosen by our Natural Solutions editors.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), the mother grain of the Incas, was domesticated thousands of years ago from its wild cousins in the high Andes. True to its origins, it’s extremely hardy, surviving not only in the cold and at high altitudes, but also in hot, dry conditions. Like amaranth and buckwheat, it doesn’t come from a cereal grass, so it isn’t technically a grain. Quinoa is a species of goosefoot, and true to its name, its leaves are shaped like a goose’s foot. Like most of the other psuedograins, quinoa is a great source of protein—one of the best plant sources, in fact—because it contains all of the essential amino acids in a good balance. It’s also rich in folic acid and several minerals.

Like corn, quinoa comes in a rainbow of color; tan, red, and, black are the most widely available varieties. Each has a slightly different texture and flavor, but generally speaking, quinoa has a light sesame-like flavor. Among its many virtues is that it cooks quickly: just fifteen minutes for whole quinoa. Cooked quinoa is great on its own or mixed with other grains, and it works beautifully in stews and salads. You can also get quinoa flakes and flour. The flour has a nutty, earthy flavor that enhances baked goods while also boosting the protein content. I especially like it in waffles. You can also use it to bind loaves, as in my Kasha Loaf with Walnuts and Sunflower Seeds recipe found inGluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, A seasonal Vegetarian Cookbook. And if all of that weren’t enough, you can also get quinoa pastas made with a combination of quinoa and corn flour.

This truly is a marvelous grain! And as the temperature drops, try my Roasted Vegetable Qunioa Casserole (below) for a healthy comfort food alternative to warm things up!

-Leslie

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Casserole

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe features a somewhat unusual method of cooking grains. The quinoa is roasted with root vegetables, garlic, and basil, infusing it with their rich flavors. Make this colorful and tasty casserole on a cold day, when the heat of the oven will help warm your house. Red quinoa is particularly attractive in this dish, but if you can’t find it, “plain” tan quinoa will do just fine. If you’ve never tried celeriac, which tastes like celery, this dish is a great way to get acquainted with it. It’s a good winter keeper and can be stored for months in the refrigerator or root cellar. To prepare it, simply cut away the tough, knobby skin and then cook it like a potato.

4 cups cubed butternut squash
3 cups cubed beets
2 1/2 cups cubed celeriac
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
8 ounces crumbled chèvre or feta (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the squash, beets, celeriac, quinoa, garlic, oil, basil, and salt in a large casserole dish. Pour in the water and cover. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Serve immediately, topped with the chèvre or feta if you like.

Excerpted and reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook by Leslie Cerierwww.lesliecerier.com