In the last few years quinoa has made a splash in the commercial market. The box or bag it comes in inevitably claims that it is "the grain of the Inkas!" This statement sells quinoa short...about 4,000 years short that is. Quinoa was originally domesticated in the highland regions of the Andes around 3,000 BC. This cultigen is well adapted to growing in locations with extreme aridity and temperature fluctuations. Besides being a good source of protein, something the indigenous populations of the Andes had infrequent access to, the leaves of the quinoa plant could be boiled and consumed as well.
While you cannot find quinoa leaves in our marketplace, boxes of the healthy Andean grain are no longer limited to the shelves of health food stores. Now that quinoa is widely available, there are a plethora of recipes highlighting the earthy qualities of the protein-rich grain. Although quinoa is touted as one of the main crops of the Inka Empire, I have never actually had any while I was in Peru. Instead, I had to make in my own home quinoa using the following recipe. Something not many people know, and that the Inka didn't even think about, is the fact that quinoa can be cooked in your rice cooker!
Minted Quinoa with Maize and Soy Beans
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water*
1/2 bag of frozen corn (or fresh if you have it)
1/2 bag of edamame
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves**
1 lemon worth of zest
1 lemon worth of juice
4 scallions sliced (just the light portion)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
*if you aren't going for a vegan recipe I recommend replacing half the water with chicken broth.
** if you don't have mint but happen to have basil, use that; it will still turn out very tasty.
Throw the quinoa into the rice cooker. Add the water or broth and the garlic cloves. Hit the on button. When finished cooking allow to cool. You can speed this process up by sticking the fluffy quinoa into the freezer and stirring it every few minutes.
Combine the rest of the ingredients and toss with the quinoa. Serve.
This is a perfect recipe for your end of summer picnics! With all the ultra-goodforyou ingredients in this recipe I am sending this on to 5-A-Day-Tuesdays.