Quinoa recipes from Bob

You might be acquainted with quinoa, the Andean grain. Obtainable in natural food stores and even many supermarkets these days. This was the cereal eaten by the Incas. Every time I think about the Spaniards arriving in Peru in the early 1500’s, I am amazed at how foreign, literally, the whole country must have appeared to them. Every plant and animal would have been unfamiliar, starting with the llamas; of course, the Spanish horses were equally unfamiliar to the Incas, who had no better way to refer to them than to call them “large llamas”. Another unfamiliar plant: the potato, which originated in the Andes, and which experts consider to represent one of the single most major impacts which the Andean civilizations had on Europe and the world as a whole (another being the gold found in the Andes, and its impact on European economies).

Quinoa can serve as the basis for a number of interesting dishes. (One plan is to take couscous recipes and adapt them for quinoa.)

Basically you can cook quinoa by sticking it in water or stock (try a 1:2 ratio) and boiling until the water is absorbed. Probably best to wash the quinoa first. A useful variation is to sort of roast the quinoa by itself for a few minutes before adding liquid. Or, saute some onions in a bit of oil and then add the quinoa after the onions have softened and cook for a few minutes. In any case, the result will be three times the original volume of quinoa. It’s hard to screw it up.

A recipe I invented early on was quinoa with bell peppers; try a combination of red, yellow, and orange peppers, julienned or something and then sauteed; the color is fabulous, the texture inviting, and the taste remarkable. Or if you’re so inclined, roast the peppers, either on the grill or in the oven; or puree them and mix them with the quinoa. Or, try quinoa with asparagus tips—fabulous. Although all of these approaches lack in historical veracity, since the Incas had neither peppers, nor asparagus.

They did have peanuts, however, so by all means let us add peanuts to our quinoa and get that crunchy texture and earthy flavor. They also had trout, swimming in their mountain rivers, most notably the Apurimac River flowing through the middle of Cuzco, the capital of ancient Imperial Peru, and then, 80 miles further north, along the bottom of the towering slopes on which Machu Picchu lies. So by all means let’s add trout of some sort to our quinoa, perhaps baked and crumbled; the Incans almost certainly did, although there is no definitive record of their doing so. Of course, the Incan emperors also had the system of the chasquis, or runners, waiting by their stations every 5-10 miles along the fabulous Incan road system, ready to convey the latest military or other information from the regional commander to their ruler or vice versa. But guess what: these chasquis were also used to bring fresh ocean fish 400 miles inland to the table of the ruler himself, in less than 24 hours, directly up the mountain slopes. So we can easily conjecture that at least the ruling classes had fresh ocean fish to eat alongside, or most likely mixed with, their quinoa. Let’s mix it in too—how does tuna sound? Or Sea Bass? We do not know exactly what greens the Incas used, but hey—throw in some chopped parsely, or cilantro, or how about even mint?

The Zen Mountain Center where I just spent a week publishes a cookbook called Three Bowl Cookbook, the name derived from the ancient custom of Zen monks taking all their meals using a set of three bowls. This book gives a couple of quinoa recipes. One, which I made recently, adds cucumber, onion, parsley, lemon juice, oil, feta cheese, and olives, and calls the result “Quinoa Tabbouleh”. This was good.

Here’s some other ideas to play with: mix quinoa and mashed potatoes and deep fry them! Or just view quinoa as a sort of rice replacement and make quinoa pilaf. I have a recipe that puts cubed cooked chicken together with quinoa, which sounds quite good, although I have never tried it; and of course, let’s not forget that quinoa is a grain, which means it can be ground up and made into bread (although there is no record of the Incas ever having done this). So grind up quinoa (your blender should work OK) and try it in your next bread recipe!

One Response to “Quinoa recipes from Bob”

  1. robin Says:

    Unagi Pie DOES contain traces of the unagi eel, apparently.

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