Monday, September 28, 2009

Quinoa and her grainy cousin Kasha

It seems like every magazine article I read these days extols the "secret" virtues of grains like quinoa. Some of you may agree and others might ask "what in the world is quinoa, I've never heard of it". Well, for you folks that asked the later, let me help you out with a little background info on this wheat and gluten free wonder is all about.

Pronounced keen-wah this grain-like crop is actually a relative to such superpower foods as beets and spinach, though it more closely resembles rice. Quinoa has been a staple in the South American culture for roughly 6,000 years now and dates back to the ancient Incas who gave it the moniker "mother of all grains". So what did they know then and revere that is only coming into popularity in the US now? For starters, quinoa is ridiculously healthy - I'm talking high protein, low in fat and an excellent source of fiber (3 grams per 1/4 cup serving). Plus this is a fairly easy and delicious dish to make!

Quinoa's flavor is really subtle and lends itself well to taking on other ingredients, so if you're going to give it a whirl in the kitchen (which I highly recommend you do) then cook it with chicken (or veggie) stock for a savory dish and add in veggies (broccoli doesn't seem to favor well sitting through 15 minutes of stock absorption though - next time I'll cook it and add it in at the end for flavor). I am hoping to have some leftovers one of these days (trouble is I never do because I end up eating my whole portion with the dinner) and to make a "healthy" fried rice...if I do that I'll let you know how I fare with that! Here is the interesting thing think think savory...salmon...veggies...but what about sweet quinoa? I saw a recent article in Men's Health (my brother gets it and they surprisingly have great recipes) that was for a quinoa "oatmeal". Instead of water or stock use apple juice and add fruit and nuts. Delicious and so filling! Be sure to rinse your quinoa well because you need that liquid absorption, and it ain't happening if you don't rinse before use!

Another healthy rice alternative I "discovered" is Kasha, 100% roasted whole grain buckwheat. What you think it sounds gross? Trust me its nutty flavor is savory and delicious. This dish has Eastern European roots (just like me!) and is apparently a common filling for knish (dough or potato filled dish that is fried -- similar to an Indian samosa or an English pastie). Though I don't remember eating kasha when I was little (we opted towards farfal in my house but I couldn't find it at TJs or Jewel this weekend) I have known about kasha for sometime thoughI didn't realize its great health benefits.

Last night I gave it a whirl and served it at my little Yom Kippur dinner (little meaning - me & my brother with too much food). I took a picture of my table and the dinner for you here. I didn't have to rinse the kasha (yeah, one less step to worry about!) but did sautee 1/2 cup of chopped onions in butter before adding it to the boiling chicken stock. Wow! It was so good and I can't wait to eat the leftovers.

So my question of the day to you all is...kasha? quinoa? other miracle grain? Let me know how you cook your groats!


  1. Hmmm sounds like I oughta try it out. I know Whole Foods always has quinoa on the salad bar...perhaps I should try it there before this non-cook trys to prepare it:)

  2. Who would have thought "Men's Health" would've had a recipe for Sweet Quiona? From the pics and your description, it sounds quite yummy. I'm going to have to inform my personal chef (my mother) of this intriguing grain.