2013 was declared the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ by the United Nations General Assembly, with the objective drawing the world’s attention to the role that quinoa can play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
So what is so special about quinoa?
For starters, quinoa is a complete source of protein that includes all nine essential amino acids. Imagine what a blessing it is to vegans who always have a problem about enough protein in their diets. While quinoa is low on calories and carbs, it is also gluten free and rich in fibre. Quinoa also contains minerals like magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper, and phosphorous.
Its qualities are so much recognised that NASA includes it in the menu of its astronauts!
Quinoa, pronounced ‘kinwah’ following its Spanish spelling, is the grain-like seed of a plant belonging to the spinach family. It was cultivated in the countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, of the Andean region, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. A staple in the area, quinoa has become increasingly popular world over in the last few years.
Quinoa seeds have a bitter coating called saponin, which makes birds avoid them. In the case of most of the quinoa that is available today in the market, this coating has been removed. Still, it is better to wash it thoroughly before cooking it.
You can cook quinoa the same way as rice. You can boil it in lots of water and then drain it. Or you can combine quinoa and water in a ratio of 1:2, bring it to boil, and simmer it till done and water absorbed, in around 15 minutes. For added flavour, quinoa can be toasted dry for five minutes over low heat and then cooked.
Though quinoa can be used in many ways – quinoa burgers are quite tasty! – my favourite use for it is in salads. It is very versatile and you can add a lot of varied stuff to it to come up with interesting combinations. I like it best when I add a lot of my favourite things and come up with a satisfying meal in one dish!
The addition of lima beans, broccoli, carrots and avocados make this a complete, nutritious meal. The onions add flavour to the salad.
And if you grind the dressing a bit coarse, it adds a bit of crunch too! And if you like the dressing on the spicier side, you can even add some red chilli flakes to it.
- Half cup quinoa seeds
- 1 cup frozen baby lima beans
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 carrot
- Half a small red onion
- Half cup walnuts
- Quarter cup olive oil
- Two cloves of garlic
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Wash the quinoa thoroughly under running water and drain.
- Bring one and a quarter cup of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the quinoa to the boiling water. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Wash the frozen lima beans under running water to defrost it. Cook in a microwave with a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of water, for three minutes.
- Cut the broccoli head into florets. Cook in the microwave with a pinch of water and two tablespoons water, for two minutes.
- Scrape the carrot into longish strips.
- Slice the onion thinly.
- Cut the avocado into pieces.
- Soak the walnuts for 15 minutes. In a blender, add the walnuts and garlic and blend. With the blender running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Transfer to a dish and season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
- To assemble, in a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, lima beans (drain off any excess cooking water from the lima beans and broccoli), broccoli, carrot, onion and avocado. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve the extra dressing along with the salad. Delicious!