That's how you say it — keen wah. Whew. First hurdle conquered!
When a reader recently invited me to teach a class on gluten-free cooking, I remembered that I hadn't yet written about the quinoa (keen wah) that's become a staple in The Perfect Pantry. One of the ancient grains (along with spelt, amaranth, millet and teff), gluten-free quinoa is enjoying its fifteen minutes of fame, and there are many good reasons why we should hope its fame lasts longer.
Though it sounds like a stir-fry dish on a Chinese restaurant menu, quinoa actually hails from the mountainous Andean regions of South America; since 1978, it has been cultivated in Colorado as well. Grown primarily for its edible seed, quinoa is not really a grain; it's a green, from the same family of leafy greens (goosefoot) as spinach and Swiss chard. The quinoa seed, which is the part we eat, has a mild, somewhat nutty taste and texture, more substantial than couscous; when cooked, it acts like rice and tastes like barley.
If beauty sometimes equals fame, then this is one beautiful superfood poised for stardom. 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 lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent migraines.
Cook quinoa as you would cook rice, adding two parts liquid to one part grain. I am a lazy rice maker who prefers to use a rice cooker, and the quinoa works oh-so-nicely in my automatic rice cooking device. Marry it with vegetables, turn it into a pilaf, make a spicy Mexican salad or a lovely rice pudding.
Quinoa is increasingly easy to find in my local supermarket, often in the rice and couscous aisle. And now you know how to ask for it. Keen wah!
From Raymond Sokolov's Against the Grain, this rich pudding adapts well to the inclusion of pretty much anything you can imagine: dried apricots, walnuts or slivered almonds, or how about small chunks of peanut brittle? Serves 4-6.
3/4 cup raw quinoa, well rinsed
4 cups milk (skim milk, heavy cream, or anything in between)
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
3/4 cup raisins or chopped dates
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon
Preheat oven to 300°F. Stir together the quinoa, milk, salt and sugar in a greased 6-cup soufflé or other ovenproof dish. Set in the oven and bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to work the "hide" that collects on the top of the pudding back into the rest of the dish. Stir in the vanilla or almond extract and raisins or dates. Return to the oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon. Serve lukewarm or cold.
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