Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fun New Foods: Quinoa

Breaking out a new series of posts! I'm going to highlight a "new" food in each of these posts. In some cases, you might say "uh...Leth....that's not a new food, I've been eating that for ages!" Especially if you read health and food blogs frequently. But then the very next person to come along will say "well what the hell is that funky food you're talking about?!" So here goes.

Quinoa (keen-wa or ki-no-ah, I say the former)

This is my favorite carb at the moment (well, in addition to the multi-grain date bread I eat every day). It's in the whole grain family, kind of like barley but with less of that "I'm eating this because it's healthy and not because I like it" factor. Quinoa is small, circular grain that's cooked up like rice (only faster). It's especially tasty cooked in chicken broth, but is nearly as tasty cooked in water and with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on it. It goes well with meat and in soup (I used to
make soup with barley, which was kind of coarse and bland. Now I make soup with quinoa and it's much lighter and tastier). It's not as good with something bulky, such as eating with eggplant parm or ratatouille (those are better with pasta, in my opinion).

Ok, so it looks kinda gross up close. But see that little bumpy thing at top, and the fact that it's darker around the edges? You can't see all that detail when you're eating it, but the bump and the dark edges are visible and it looks like cute little swirlies on your plate. So if you get a kick out of cool shapes (yeah, I admit it, I'm kind of a nerd sometimes), then you'll get a kick out of quinoa.

What's good about quinoa from a health perspective? Well, it's a whole grain, which means that it's higher in dietary fiber, antioxidants, dietary minerals, vitamins and protein than refined carbs. Manufacturers often have to fortify refined grains to make up for the loss of vitamins and minerals. Also, whole grain carbs are digested (and enter the blood stream) more slowly. This helps avoid the cycle of eating a plate of (refined) carbs, then getting hungry soon after (caused by a spike and dip in blood sugar).

The Good Stuff
1. Quinoa is a whole grain, so it hasn't been as processed, so it's taken fewer resources to make. Thus, a smaller carbon footprint.
2. As a whole grain, it will fill you up for longer and not spike your blood sugar.
3. It's tasty.
4. Higher in vitamins and nutrients, and therefore better than refined grains in protecting against disease and promoting overall health.
5. You get to confuse people when you go into stores and ask for it and they say "whatwhat?"

The Bad Stuff
1. It's harder to find than your more run-of-the-mill grains. But you can always request it - I put in a request with my local farmstand, and just a few weeks ago noticed that they finally were stocking it. I bought a bag on principle (I didn't need any more), just to support the decision to stock it. Previously I had to go out of my way to another store to buy it.
2. People look at you funny when you ask for it, then they send you to look at the rice. Or they try to correct your pronunciation.

Quinoa is definitely my new superfood. It's my go-to grain, my side carb of choice. If you haven't tried it, then go for it!


Barbara Gavin said...

You are right, it is definitely pronouced "keen-wa" but if folks mispronounce it while becoming acquainted with it, so what!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Well, wikipedia says that ki-no-ah is another pronunciation, but I think that keen-wa is more accurate. Honestly, I don't care if people mispronounce it, as long as they try it, or help me find it in the store!

Grendl's (in Harvard Sq) actually has quinoa on their menu, I was excited when I saw that!

Leah J. Utas said...

I've tried and I liked it. It has to be washed and buffed to get rid of the bitter covering. I didn't get it all once. Quite the taste sensation.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Leah, it's interesting that you mention that, because I've heard that before too. But I've never washed it, and haven't had any problem with it being bitter. Maybe it's the brand I'm buying? Or maybe I just like it bitter, who knows? It doesn't really taste bitter...

Charlotte said...

I love quinoa!! I make mine with black beans for a double protein/fiber whammy:) And I too have heard that you need to wash it and soak it to get the "bitter" shells off. But I never do and I think it tastes fine just cooked as is!

JavaChick said...

I found it at my local SuperStore in the health food section, so it can't be that hard to find...I live in a small city and options tend to be limited.

I haven't 'washed' my quinoa, but I usually rinse it.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Java, maybe the problem's that I don't normally go to the superstores! I have seen it at the large grocery, but I don't normally shop there. I go to the farmstand, and then a smaller grocery (which still doesn't stock it).

Charlotte, what else do you put in with the quinoa and black beans? Spices? Cilantro?

Romny said...

One good fact is that you can use it in lieu of wheat products. I 'm allergic to wheat (even though I still eat it) but it's a great alternative. I usually toast it up first then cook it in vegetable or chicken broth.

I've seen it everywhere! You can get it at Trader Joes, or I can send you some in the mail. Kinda like your friendly neighborhood Quinoa dealer.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

LMAO! Yeah, I used to have to make a special trip to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, but now that they have it at my farmstand, it's all good!

JavaChick said...

Well, as I said, I live in a small city...We don't have all that many options. There are farmer's markets that are open during summer/fall, but other than that we mostly have the chain grocery stores (and only 2 chains, at that).