Spanish Quinoa

My inspiration for this recipe came from the desire to recreate the Spanish rice dish from my favorite restaurant with an extra nutritional punch. Trading up the white rice for quinoa for additional protein, this recipe is well suited for vegetarians as a main dish.

While quinoa is commonly considered a “whole grain” it is actually a seed that is a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach. Quinoa not only offers a higher protein content than grains such as rice, it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the nine essential amino acids. One particular amino acid contained in quinoa is lysine, which is useful for tissue growth and repair; making quinoa an excellent choice for recovery.

Quinoa is also a good source of manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, folate and phosphorus; providing antioxidants, cardiovascular benefits, fiber, and a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Quinoa is rather easy to prepare as long as you have a fine strainer. It is essential to rinse quinoa to remove the saponin residue that has a bitter taste. If you have tried quinoa before and didn’t like it, try it again, making sure it is well rinsed; it is quite possible the saponin residue was not completely rinsed away.

  • After rinsing the quinoa, add it to a medium saucepan over medium heat to toast for roughly 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Once quinoa is golden, add water in a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep covered, remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

If you are looking to get a little more adventurous with quinoa, try this recipe I created for Spanish Quinoa that recently won Whole Foods Market Cooking blog’s Best Vegetarian Main Contest.

Spanish Quinoa with Broccoli

Spanish Quinoa

(Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side)

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 large onion, chopped

• 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 cup quinoa, rinsed wel

• 14.5 ounces can diced tomatoes with green chilies, un-drained

• 1 cup water or low-sodium vegetable broth

• 2 teaspoons chili powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt (use less if using vegetable broth)

• 1 cup frozen green peas

• 1/4 cup green onions, sliced

1. Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and uncooked quinoa. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and the quinoa is golden, about 7 to 9 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, water or broth, chili powder, cumin powder and sea salt. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid, add frozen peas, and simmer until any remaining liquid evaporates and peas are heated through.

3. Garnish with green onions.

It makes a delicious meal as is, but you can also try adding a can of rinsed and drained pinto beans at the same time as the green peas, topping it with 1-2 eggs cooked to your liking, or adding in cooked shredded chicken. My favorite way to eat it is with a sunny side up egg and avocado.

Spanish Quinoa with Egg, Avocado, and Broccoli Enjoy!

Reference: “Quinoa.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. Web. 21 Jan. 2012. .

By Lauren Anderson – Boulder, CO