By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is considered by some to be the most nutritious of all the whole grains. This ancient superfood is becoming more popular, showing up on the menus of gourmet restaurants nationwide.

[Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]
Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman

Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, provides 25 percent of your daily iron needs, and is a tremendous source of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. It is more nutritious than white rice and in most dishes can be substituted for the more popular grain.

Always rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking it. Don’t be tempted to skip this step. Even if your quinoa is processed, which removes much of the saponin, or protective outer covering, the dust still remains. It can add a nasty bitter flavor to your finished dish. Don’t risk it.

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Run cold water through the grains until the water runs clear. Drain the water off, stir the grains around a bit, and then re-rinse to ensure you’ve removed all the bitter outer coating.

Moroccan Quinoa

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

1 cup quinoa, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1 cup water

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup diced red onion

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin

1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1⁄4 cup raisins

Salt to taste

Fresh mint (optional)

  1. Place the rinsed quinoa, water, and chicken broth in a 1@@bf1/2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork. Set aside.

  2. While the quinoa is cooking, heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Sauté the onions until they begin to caramelize. Add the cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the almonds and raisins until heated.

  3. Add the hot quinoa to the skillet. Toss to combine. Heat until the mixture is heated through. Adjust salt if needed. Serve garnished with fresh mint, if desired.

Per serving: Kcalories 274 (From Fat 79); Fat 9g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 1mg; Sodium 186mg; Carbohydrate 43g (Dietary Fiber 5g); Protein 9g.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad over Chilled Avocado Soup

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Cool time: 2 hours

Yield: 4 servings

Avocado Soup:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded

1⁄2 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, peeled

1⁄2 serrano or jalapeño pepper, or more to taste

3 tablespoons cilantro leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cups water

Juice of 2 limes

Salt to taste

Quinoa Black Bean Salad:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained thoroughly

2 cups water

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1⁄2 red onion, small diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano minced)

1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Place the ingredients for the avocado soup (except salt) into a blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until needed, at least 2 hours.

  2. Place the rinsed quinoa and water in a 1-1/2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork. Set aside. Allow to cool to room temperature, about an hour.

  3. Mix remaining ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

  4. To serve, pack 1 cup of the quinoa salad into a ring mold in the center of a pasta bowl. If you don’t have a ring mold handy, just mound the salad in the center of the bowl. Gently pour 3 ounces of the avocado soup around the salad.

Per serving: Kcalories 416 (Calories from Fat 160); Fat 18g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 314mg; Carbohydrate 56g (Dietary Fiber 16g); Protein 15g.

No need to mince the garlic or peppers for the avocado soup. Just plop them into the blender as-is.