Quinoa may seem like a new grain, but in fact it was a staple of the ancient Incas. Pronounced keen-wah, it is so high in protein — 13 per cent — that the United Nations classified it as a super crop. It has more protein than any other grain and all eight essential amino acids. It is also higher in unsaturated fats, lower in carbohydrates than most grains and high in fibre.

Aside from its fab health properties, it is easy and quick to cook and has a light, fluffy texture with a mild, slightly nutty flavour. What’s not to like?

Quinoa and Vegetable Salad

Makes four to six servings.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 cup (250 ml) quinoa, well rinsed (as per package)
• 2 cups (500 ml) water or broth
• Pinch salt
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp (2 ml) each: dried oregano leaves and salt
• 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper
• 1/2 lb (250 g) cooked asparagus* (grilled or steamed), cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
• 1 red or yellow pepper, diced
• 3 to 4 green onions, sliced
• 1 cup (250 ml) halved cherry tomatoes
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) crumbed feta cheese
• 1/3 cup (75 ml) toasted walnuts or pecan halves, optional

METHOD:

Place quinoa in a medium saucepan with water and salt or broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until tender. If necessary, drain off any liquid. Transfer to large bowl and fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile whisk oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper together. Prepare vegetables.

Add vegetables to quinoa, pour dressing over all and toss well. Sprinkle with feta cheese and nuts just before serving.

* Use a seasonal vegetable when asparagus is not in season, green or yellow wax beans, broccoli, etc.

– Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.

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