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Peruvian quinoa stew

Quinoa is an amazing grain. It is gluten free, relatively high in protein, and surprising well rounded when it comes to amino acids (the building blocks of protein), making it a wonderful choice for vegetarian or vegan fare. It's also rather bland and we've tried recipes in the past that have, in our opinion, left something to be desired. But we refuse to be deterred, and a little inernet searching produced at least one interesting recipe, which we tried tonight and enjoyed.

A quick note first. I believe most of the quinoa sold in the United States is pre-rinsed, but if you buy it in bulk from health food stores (to avoid undue pre-processing), rinsing the grain before use is an absolute must. Quinoa grows covered in saponin, a very bitter substance that keeps away birds and is equally as unpalatable to humans. Because it is a relatively fine grain I used a coffee filter for this job, slowly running cool, filtered water over the grain until the rinse water no longer had a soapy look to it.

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

● 1/2 cup quinoa
● 1 cup water
● 2 cups chopped onions
● 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
● 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
● 1 celery stalk, chopped
● 1 carrot, cut on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick slices
● 1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
● 1 cup cubed zucchini
● 2 cups undrained chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
● 1 cup water or vegetable stock
● 2 tsp. ground cumin
● ½ tsp. chili powder
● 1 tsp. ground coriander
● 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
● 2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
● salt, to taste
● cilantro, optional, to taste
● grated cheese, optional

Place rinsed quinoa and water in pot (covered) and cook covered on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until soft.

While the quinoa is cooking place the onions, garlic and vegetable oil in covered soup pot and saute on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Add bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Stir in cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano. Simmer covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Stir in cooked quinoa and salt to taste. Serve hot, topped with grated cheese and cilantro if desired.

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