Monday, August 2, 2010

Quinoa Tabbouleh


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Quinoa (pronounced keen wa) is a wonderful grain, chock full of nutrients.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties. However, when new varieties were developed by agronomists, native growers in the high plateau rejected the new varieties despite their high projected yields; because the seeds no longer had a bitter coating, birds had consumed the entire crop after just one season.

Now don't let this scare you off, it's easy to fix, but it is important that you understand this because skipping this step can make your quinoa unpalatable.

The first step in preparing quinoa is to remove the saponins, by rinsing it in ample running water either in a fine strainer or in cheesecloth. Removal of the saponin helps with digestion; the soapy nature of the compound makes it act as a laxative. Most boxed quinoa has been pre-rinsed for convenience.

One of the beauties of quinoa is that it is so easy to prepare, it is not temperamental like rice can be. You can flavor quinoa with just about anything, it is wonderful warm, cold or at room temperature.

Cooking with quinoa is an art, not a science, so feel free to add anything you want to it!

This is an adaptation of a recipe I made from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook.

This recipe will make 6 1/3 cup servings.

1 cup quinoa (any color)
2 cups water
kosher salt
1/2 cup edamame, shelled (can substitute peas or fava beans)
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil minced
(can substitute any fresh herb combination you have)

It is extremely important to rinse quinoa several times (unless you purchase the pre-rinsed variety in the box, it will state on the box that it has been rinsed).

Combine quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Do not cover, no need to stir.

Remove from the heat, place edamame on top of quinoa and let sit for 5 minutes (since it is frozen), toss with a fork. If the edamame are defrosted, no need to let it sit. Transfer to a glass serving bowl, add remaining ingredients and toss again.

Although the soy sauce sounds out of place, it gives the dish a slight depth of flavor that plain salt will not accomplish.

I serve this along side any meat or fish dish, and often I will add my cubed chicken breast right to it for a one dish meal, served with a salad.

1/3 cup provides the following nutrients:

Calories 142
Protein 6.7 grams
Carbohydrates 23 grams
Fiber 3 grams
Sugar .50 gram
Fat 3 grams
Sodium 110 mg

If you were to eat this post workout, you would increase the serving size to 1/2 cup which would provide 213 calories, 10 grams protein, 34 grams carbs
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