Second Helpings - Quinoa



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Grain of Sense


My gratitude goes to an Oakland friend for introducing me to quinoa a couple of years ago at a very refined backyard barbecue. The lunchtime feast included freshly grilled wild salmon, a luscious seasonal salad dressed in not much more than garlic and olive oil and, in place of rice or potatoes, he said, he prepared quinoa.
Maybe you’re a longtime Bay Area health foodie and have been eating it for years, buying it by the bagful from the bulk produce section at Berkeley Bowl (2020 Oregon St., Berkeley, 510-843-6929). For me, that barbecue was a first, and from that day on, quinoa became a staple in my kitchen, diet and menu. It’s especially good for breakfast, with raisins cooked in and a touch of olive oil drizzled over.
While I equate it with rice and potatoes and have often served it in their place as my friend did, quinoa is not even similar. For one, instead of carbs, think protein—it contains all eight essential amino acids. The ancient Incas called it “the mother grain,” and quinoa has long been important in South American cuisine. Power to them!
It is easy to prepare quinoa. Put a cup of the tiny pearls in a pot with 1 ¾ cups of water, then bring to a boil, put on the lid, reduce the heat and cook gently until all the water is absorbed and the hard little beads have plumped up into moist ivory-colored bubbles.
Recently I discovered russet-colored quinoa, but for a reason I can’t explain, I prefer the paler variety. It seems quinoa is becoming increasingly mainstream. Now I see it ready-packed at Trader Joe’s (www.traderjoes.com).
—Wanda Hennig
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