If you’re new to the trendiest kinds of health foods making their way into the mainstream American food market, you might not know what quinoa is, or how to use it, even if you see it on the shelf at your local supermarket. This exotically named food is a South American pseudo-cereal that’s actually an edible seed. It’s not technically a grain, but it’s similar enough in use and texture that a lot of people think of it that way. Quinoa is usually sold dried, where hydration makes it into a fine consistency similar to couscous, grits or other miniature grains or pastas.
More and more Americans are putting quinoa on their dinner plates, and it’s interesting to see how health minded food shoppers are using this international food. Here are some of the most popular ways to cook with quinoa for results that can be a lot healthier than your classic cheeseburgers or pizzas.
1. Quinoa Salads
When it comes to assembling a salad with this stock item, the sky’s the limit. Try adding minced vegetables like peppers and onions, spices from ginger to allspice to cayenne pepper, or even fruits like raisins and apple bits, and sliced almonds or other nuts. When you experiment with different combinations and themes, you’ll find the tastes that best complement each other. One popular item is the Mediterranean quinoa salad that might include basil, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and the other stuff you would find in a Greek salad dish.
2. Classic Substitutions
As healthy cooks from at-home moms to bistro managers look at using quinoa, some interesting results have developed. One is the quinoa lasagna, where the quinoa takes the place of the wheat-based wide noodle layers in this beloved Italian dish. Another is quinoa meatloaf, where the quinoa provides a binding, hearty filling that’s much lower in fat and cholesterol than a ground beef option. These kinds of recipes are great to delve into if you want to use substitution to slim down and feel better with optimized nutrition in your daily meals.
3. Quinoa Stuffing
Just like with the above examples, because of its rich texture, quinoa can be a great filler for stuffed peppers or tomatoes, or anything else that needs stuffing, especially with tasty accents like pepper, low-fat cheeses, ginger or other extras.
The wide range of saucy collages known as curries often benefit from presiding over a bed of pasta or rice. Quinoa can be a great stand-in to balance out the intense tastes and potentially watery texture of a curry dish, as well as for helping to blunt the heat of chilis that can leave even curry fans diving for a glass of water.
5. The Upscale Quinoa Mold
Sometimes chefs like to use quinoa for its presentation, making a small amount into a cup or other molded shape in order to show off microcuisine elements. Yes, quinoa can be part of the gourmet menu, but it’s not inherently expensive (barring import costs) or hard to make.
Take a look at any of these types of recipes for trying quinoa out. You may come to love this versatile food in all of its many forms.