What you need to know about this mighty food in a tiny package
notes from Chef Jeannette
Quinoa seeds are coated in a naturally occurring soapy substance called saponin. It’s probably there to discourage foragers in the wild. While saponin is not harmful, it does have a slightly bitter taste. To remove it, simply dry-toast the quinoa over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking occasionally to toast all sides, or rinse it well in running water before use—be sure to use a double-mesh sieve to prevent the tiny seeds from falling through the holes.
Quinoa was known by the Incas as the “mother of grains,” even though it’s actually a seed. But it acts like a grain in cooking—and is actually the highest in protein of any cereal-type food on the planet. Legend has it that the Incan armies frequently marched for days at a time eating a mixture of quinoa and fat known as war balls, and at planting time, tradition demanded that the Incan leader would plant the first quinoa seed using a gold shovel.
If you’re a vegetarian and have wondered whether you’re getting enough high-quality protein from nonanimal sources, here’s a perfect dish for you. In fact, even if you’re like me—decidedly not a vegetarian—this dish is still a great way to get your protein fix. Animal protein sources, such fish and meat, offer a lot of things, but one of them is not fiber. Not so this dish. Beans, a staple in the vegetarian protein arsenal, are fiber heavyweights, with all the accompanying benefits—blood sugar control, digestive health, and a lowered risk of many illnesses. It’s probably no accident that in all the areas of the globe where people live the longest—dubbed the Blue Zones—beans of some kind are a staple in the diet.
— Dr. Jonny
Southwest Style Quinoa*
Quick and hearty, this dish tastes just as good reheated the next day as it does when you first make it.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. jar high-quality prepared salsa
¼ cup chopped chives, optional
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- In a medium saucepan, dry toast quinoa for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add broth, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and nearly all the liquid is absorbed.
- When quinoa is tender, add beans, salsa, chives, if using, and cilantro, stirring gently to combine well. Cover and cook for 1 minute or until dish reaches desired temperature. Fold in sunflower seeds, and serve.
PER SERVING: 263 CAL; 12 G PROT; 7 G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT FAT); 41 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 815 MG SOD; 11 G FIBER; 6 G SUGARS
*Adapted from The Most Effective Ways To Live Longer Cookbook by Jonny Bowden and Jeannette Bessinger