People often ask me what's coming up in the pantry: what's hot, what's not, what's going to be the new must-have ingredient.
What do I tell these seekers of wisdom, these trendsetters who think I am one of them? I run to my pantry and pull out my crystal ball.
Okay, it's not really a crystal ball; it's a Magic 8 ball.
My Magic 8 ball is old, so the little words are fading, but it is still wise. When I asked, "Will quinoa be the next big ingredient?" my Magic 8 ball responded, "Signs point to yes."
Quinoa -- pronounced KEEN wah -- one of the ancient grains along with spelt, amaranth, millet and teff, originated in the thin, dry climate of the high Andean altiplano in Bolivia and Peru. For the past 30 years, it has been cultivated in Colorado, too.
Grown primarily for its edible seed, quinoa is not a grain; it's a green, from the same family of leafy greens as spinach and Swiss chard. The seed, which is the part we eat, has a mild, nutty taste and texture, more substantial than couscous; when cooked, it acts like rice and tastes like barley.
Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a "complete" protein without the need to combine it with other grains or legumes or meats. High in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals, quinoa provides a wide range of health benefits, including helping to promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent migraines.
Cook quinoa as you would cook rice, with two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook for 12-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
In an airtight container in your pantry, it will keep for up to two years. Because quinoa has no strong flavor of its own, it works well with salty ingredients, bold flavors and creamy textures.
What's your favorite way to use quinoa?
Quinoa salad with tomato, feta and parsley
My quinoa take on tabbouleh, with the last of the flat-leaf parsley and mint from the garden. Serves 2-4.
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp fresh mint leaves
1-2 tsp flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 cup chopped Kirby or English cucumber
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (optional)
In a small sauce pan, bring the water to boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to simmer, cover the pan, and cook 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. In a small glass jar, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and shake until the dressing is emulsified.
Combine quinoa, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and cucumber in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the dressing, and toss gently to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with feta, and serve at room temperature.
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