I think quinoa just might be the healthiest grain on the planet. You see, without boring you with all the scientific details, it’s a complete protein. And for a grain, that’s saying something. You see the only other complete proteins – meaning food with all eight essential amino acids for human health – are meats. But they come with a lot of baggage. Quinoa comes without baggage, and actually brings much more to the table o’ health.
I am pleased to present a form of quinoa I hadn’t seen before until last week. Sprouted quinoa. Again, without all the boring details, the sprouting of grains activates natural enzymes (while keeping the temperature low) that many nutritionists and scientists believe up their nutritional ante. Click here for a list of study summaries on sprouting grains from the Whole Grain Council. Okay, good talk.
What I really love about quinoa as a cook/blogger/eater is that the flavor is neutral enough to be a blank canvas. It can be a great rice replacement, mixed into a salad, stuffed into peppers… or cooked up with dried fruits and nuts and served like a little “burger” between two roasted portabella mushroom caps. I suppose it could also be called a little sandwich. Regardless of word play, it is definitely earthy, sweet, healthy and a nice little package of good eatin’.
As I write this, I’m eating the above picture into oblivion for lunch (with a fork and knife). I’d go so far as to say the meal verges on meaty, but that would probably be considered sacrilege on a Meatless Monday.
- 8 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Sprinkling of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups of sprouted or regular quinoa
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 5 dried apricots, diced to the size of the cranberries
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock (or water)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Using a small spoon, gently scrape away the gills (the dark, accordion-like membrane) of the mushrooms.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast until mushrooms give away most of their moisture, about 20 minutes. Flip once during roasting.
- In a small sauté pan, lightly toast almonds over medium heat until fragrant and just turned in color. Set aside.
- In a large pot, combine quinoa, dried fruit, vegetable stock and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmering 15 minutes stirring occasionally until quinoa is tender and liquid is completely absorbed. Consult package for best results, adding 1/4 cup extra water to compensate for liquid absorbed by dried fruit
- Gently fold almonds into quinoa and season with black pepper.
- Place one mushroom cap top down on plate, mound on quinoa, drizzle with olive oil and top with second mushroom cap, right-side up.
If you’d like the dried fruit to have more of a texture, do not add them to the pot with the quinoa. Instead, heat the 1/4 cup of water to a boil, then pour it over the fruit and let them steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour off the water and then mix the fruit into the quinoa with the almonds.
Like that side salad in the picture?
For a simple green addition to any meal, toss whatever salad greens you have with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To scrape away the gills of the mushrooms as pictured below, gently use the edge of a small teaspoon, and a little at a time edge the gills away. A motion that follows the round of the mushroom works best.