One of my favorite proteins is a bit surprising. Being vegetarian, of course it would not be the ever popular bacon. Most would assume tofu as a generic answer. Those with some veg option knowledge might guess tempeh or seitan, but they too would be wrong. This favorite ancient seed of mine boasts 14g of protein and a laundry list of essential vitamins and minerals per every 3.5oz of uncooked grain!
That's right, I am talking about quinoa (keen-wah). This little dietary gem is originally from the Andean region of South America. The Incas treated it as sacred, referring it to "the mother grain" until the Spanish conquistadors invaded and forbade them from cultivating this amazing grain. Thus eliminating quinoa from popular diets and making it largely unknown until recently.
Fortunately for everyone, quinoa's popularity is growing. Not only is it gluten free, but it is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. I like to prepare quinoa the way i think the ancient Andean people probably enjoyed it, with simple vegetables and warm spices like in the following recipe: South of the Border Quinoa.
South of the Border Quinoa
1 cup dry quinoa
2 Tbsp. chopped shallot
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomato
¼ cup chopped poblano pepper
1 Tbsp. salted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 ¼ cup vegetable broth
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
¼ cup corn
feta or cotija cheese
1. Rinse quinoa until it runs clear and set aside.
2. In a medium sized pot, sauté shallot, garlic, sun-dried tomato and poblano pepper in the butter and spices. Cook until fragrant and vegetables are starting to brown.
3. Add quinoa and broth and simmer, covered, until almost done, about 10-12 minutes. You will see the little tails just starting to pop out.
4. Open lid and add corn. Continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, or until the corn is ready.