Western cultures think of wheat, rye, millet, rice, and corn as grains, and rarely consume other starchy grains. Incas and other ancient American cultures (Mayans and Aztecs) favoured corn (mais) and quiona grown in the Andes Mountains.
Inca farmers were experts in growing quinoa which looks and “cooks” like a grain, but is technically a seed. It contains high amounts of complete proteins, carbohydrates, and is a good source of fibre, calcium, and potassium. It resembles millet and a delicious nutty, slightly sweet flavour.
It can be enjoyed as a hot breakfast cereal with milk and a sweet flavouring (maple syrup, table syrup, fruit nectars). Some quinoa aficionados add nuts and fresh or dried fruit. You can also prepare it as a salad as shown below.
Quinoa is sold in health food stores and in select supermarkets.
1-cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 can (19 oz or 540 ml.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1-½ cups corn kernels
1-½ cups green peas
1 red pepper, diced
1 carrot, peeled, diced
1 cup coarsely chopped herbs (flat leaf parsley, coriander, mint, basil)
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
¼ rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
In medium, saucepan, bring four cups of salted water to boil. Add quinoa; return to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered for seven to 10 minutes or al dente.
Drain. Then steam for 10 minutes.
Transfer quinoa to large bowl, and cool.
Add beans, corn, peas, pepper, carrot, herbs and mix. Season to taste.
Pour over salad, toss and serve at room temperature.