Rant first; recipes later
I guess I’ll start by addressing the recent controversy associated with quinoa farming and the ways rich white peoples’ demands for copious amounts of quinoa has driven up local costs of quinoa for South Americans:
The article was making the rounds on facebook, and I’m pretty sure if your facebook news feed is as socially and globally conscious as mine is, you’ve already seen this article. As a proud McGill University International Development Studies alum, I am certainly aware of the plight of third world farmers and their disadvantages in the global market, unfair economic policies and the overall exploitation millions of people experience to harvest and produce the foods us greedy fatties love to stuff in our faces. I’m an extremely strong advocate of Fair Trade practices (although the movement itself has its own downfalls). Indeed, quinoa can be farmed in North America so why not support that as well!
But my problem is with trendiness. Caring about quinoa farmers has become just as trendy as quinoa itself. I have a serious issue with thousands of hipsters tweeting and facebooking “Sorry vegans! Looks like your love of quinoa is evil for poor Bolivians!” from their laptops and smartphones that were also—surprise surprise—BUILT ON THE EXPLOITATION AND OUTRIGHT TORTURE OF OTHER PEOPLE!
Practically everything we enjoy in the Western World is delivered to us via the oppression of others. Last month, we chose to focus on quinoa.
I’m not saying any of this is sensationalistic. This shit’s real, and it’s real serious. But don’t just jump on the bandwagon and hate on quinoa when the phone you’re hating from is “fueling mass rape in the Congo”. We all need to be more responsible consumers, with the clothing and technology we buy and the farming practices we support. It’s difficult to not be a hypocrite when you’re protesting at Occupy Wallstreet with a Starbucks in your hand. Even if it is in a reusable mug. We’re all hypocrites; at least we can try to be conscientious and caring hypocrites. We have to try and find a consumerist balance within our own lives that enables us to enjoy ourselves without suffering (too much) from the massive guilt of being lucky and privileged. We have to care for our own health and well-being just as much as we care for the health and well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Okay?!
Now time to talk about food!
I’m OBSESSED with Quinoa. Quinoa is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It contains all 8 essential amino acids and is not fattening, just filling. Quinoa is so healthy and delicious that it should be consumed frequently. There is white quinoa, red quinoa and black quinoa. Served warm, quinoa can be soft and mushy, like rice or couscous, and served cold, quinoa can be fresh and crunchy! So versatile!
Cooking quinoa is a breeze! All you need to do is pour your quinoa into boiling water (1 cup quinoa: 2 cups water) simmer uncovered until all the water is absorbed, stirring once in a while. I often boil my quinoa in chicken or veg stock instead of plain water because it just gives it a bit of extra flavor. But this isn’t necessary.
Here are 4 very different ways to enjoy 1 cup of cooked quinoa:
Quinoa Panzanella Salad
In a bowl or on a large dish, toss cooked and cooled off red or white quinoa, with chopped cucumber, chopped red onion, chopped cherry tomatoes and herbs (basil, mint or parsley) in some lemon and lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cut a nice loaf of whole wheat bread into large cubes. In a small frying pan, drizzle some olive oil and turn the heat up. Throw in the croutons and toss in the oil, frying for a few minutes until the bread is nice and crunchy but still a bit chewy.Add the bread to the salad and toss well.
Serve and enjoy!
Get Skinny Quinoa Lunch Salad
First, make yourself a little vinaigrette using some good olive oil and a tiny bit of sesame oil, some cider vinegar, a drizzle of soya sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Cook your quinoa and let it cool down significantly. In a small frying pan, toast some sunflower seeds lightly for a few minutes…make sure they don’t burn. Chop up some green scallions and rinse some sprouted mung beans (you can buy these or you can sprout your own mung beans by soaking them for 3 days, refreshing the water every 12 hours or so!).
Mix everything together well in a bowl and the stir in your dressing.
Store in a tightly sealed container and the salad will keep for days! It makes a great work place lunch—it’s so filling it’ll keep you going all afternoon!
* This was my basic recipe but there’s a whole world of other things you could add to yoursalad: avocado, peas, spinach, almonds, etc. If you aren’t vegan you can add some crumbled feta or some parm…the possibilities are endless!
Quinoa Mushroom Risotto
While your quinoa is simmering put some olive oil into a frying pan, when its hot, add one sliced red or yellow onion and slow cook it for about 10 minutes on medium heat until it starts to caramelize. Then, add a teaspoon of brown sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and stir, let everything cook for a few more minutes.
When the onions are ready, add them to the pot of cooked quinoa and give everything a big stir. Cover to keep warm. Then, add a bit more olive oil to the pan and toss in mushrooms and asparagus and sauté until they’re cooked and soft. Add some salt and pepper and then mix everything in with the quinoa and onions.
For an extra flourish, top with some toasted pine nuts!
Mediterranean Chickpea Chili
This one’s a hearty and flavorful vegetarian supper that will satisfy even your most veg-skeptical friends.
Cook your quinoa and keep it warm. In a medium sized soup pot, heat up about 2-3 cups of veg stock. In a large soup pot, warm up some olive oil and add some celery, garlic, one chili pepper and onions (all chopped). Heat until they’re warm and somewhat soft and cooked down.
Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend up the contents of the pot so that it’s a bit smoother. You can also leave it chunky. Up to you!
Add the veg stock to the pot, add one can of rinsed chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, green olives and spices (I used saffron, oregano, salt pepper etc.) You choose!
Bring to a boil and then lower–let simmer for at least 15 minutes. You can cover and let simmer on very low heat until you’re ready to eat. The longer it simmers, the more flavorful it will be!
Here’s the best part, before serving, you can cut some halloumi cheese into little “croutons” and fry with a bit of oil in a frying pan.
Serve with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon or lime!
For more delicious quinoa recipes, check out the quinoa category on my cooking blog, What Would Jaishree Do?