Quinoa:Brown Rice Alternative
Currently we are experiencing a brown rice shortage in the U.S. and warehouses such as Costco and Sam’s Clubs are limiting the purchases of 20 pound bags of brown, white, and basmati rice.
Although the causes of this new rationing are highly debatable, this rationing nonetheless has many people distressed.
Although the warehouses don’t want us to panic over the rationing, I thought I would still discuss grains that are cooked somewhat like rice, and thus are simple side dish alternatives.
One of my personal favorite grains is quinoa. A better pair to salmon than rice in my opinion, quinoa is also higher in calcium than milk, and an excellent source of lysine, the amino acid that is scarce in a vegetarian diet and can lead to a supressed immune system. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-whah) is also rich in iron, phosphorous, B-vitamins, and vitamin E.
Quinoa is a great carbohydrate for athletes because it is high energy and easy to digest. According to Ayurvedic Medicine the traditional medicine of India, quinoa is “drying and warming, strengthening to the kidneys and heart, as well as the whole body.”
You can cook quinoa basically how you cook rice. Cooking time is only about 15 minutes though. First you must always rinse it to wash off the bitter saponin that coats it. Be sure to rinse it in a fine mesh strainer until it stops soaping up. Imported quinoa requires about two cups of stock or water per cup of grain, while smaller domestic quinoa only needs 1 1/2 cups of water or stock per cup of quinoa. Bring the quinoa and liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes depending on the texture you prefer. For added nutritional value, quinoa is very simple to sprout and enjoyed in salads.
For those that are celiac, gluten intolerant, or just trying to reduce wheat in the diet quinoa is an excellent substitute for couscous as it mimics the size and texture. Other alternative grains to brown rice worth exploring are millet and barley.
I use this basic “Quick Quinoa Salad” recipe created by my favorite whole foods chef, Matthew Legters, as it has an excellent balanced nutritional profile and is very easy to prepare and adapt to whatever is on hand. You can easily substitute out the seeds, vegetables, and dressing. You can really add ANY veggie if you don’t have carrots on hand. My favorites are celery and broccoli. I make a version of this with celery, walnuts and dried cranberries with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing that goes great as a healthy side to roasted turkey.
“Quick Quinoa Salad” by Matthew Legters
1- 2/3 cups dry quinoa
3- 1/3 cups water
Pinch of sea salt
1 Cup chopped carrots
3/4 cups minced parsley
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons tamari
Sliced black olives
Directions: Rinse quinoa with warm water and drain through a fine strainer. Place quinoa in a 3-quart pan with water and salt; bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow quinoa to sit on very low heat, uncovered, for an extra 5 minutes so it dries out. This makes the grain fluffier for salads. Toss with fork and let cool.
Add carrots, parsley, seeds, and garlic to quinoa; mix thoroughly. Combine lemon juice, oil, and tamari. Pour over quinoa and toss well. Garnish with olives and tomatoes if desired.
Preparation time: 35-45 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings.
Feel free to share your favorite way to use quinoa with everyone in the comments if you have a great recipe!
Resource: “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” by Rebecca Wood.