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Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, is a wonderful sort-of-like grain food from very ancient Incan cultivation, and most recently introduced to the American organic market by Quinoa Corporation, Gardena CA.  I tried it and was delighted.  At first I thought the cooking instructions were too much to fool with and they were.  It is easy to prepare and versatile to fit any family’s finicky preferences.

According to the New York Times, November 3, 2008, it is so good for you it should be sold by prescription only.  They report it has a protein content superior to most grains, contains all the essential amino acids such as lysine that is good for tissue growth and repair.  It’s a source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and iron.  And for our friends who live on the gluten-free side of the tracks, it contains no gluten.

It is a bit pricey.  My 12 oz. box cost $6.29, but for a change of pace I thought it was worth it.  There is a white and a red variety.  Take the red because the dish looks rich and flavorful.

The tiny seeds are naturally coated with something to ward off insects and birds, so wash really well even though the box will indicate it has been pre washed.  I soaked mine in cold water three times, pouring it through a tea sieve each time.  The sieve is important because those seeds are tiny.  When the rinse water is clear you are good to go.

1 cup red quinoa

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook as you would rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce, cover and simmer 15 minutes.  You will know it is done when the little white threads show up.  Drain and return to the pot.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  I found a good basic recipe at www.epicurious.com for Black Bean And Tomato Salad.

Zest and juice of one line

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Cooked quinoa

1 can 14 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained

2 medium tomatoes, diced

4 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro or Italian parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix lime, butter, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper for dressing.  Add quinoa to dressing and toss, then add remaining ingredients and toss again.  Serve warm or chilled.

I set aside three serving portions of the salad to try additional ingredients.  Yellow hominy in one, garbanzo beans in another, and dry roasted English walnuts in the last one.  All three ingredients worked well.  I especially liked the yellow hominy in the salad for additional flavor, texture, and color.  Charles Marlin

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