Dubbed a super-food, not only is quinoa (actually a seed, not a grain and pronounced KEEN-wah) gluten free, but it’s also a balanced and complete source of protein that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, making it the perfect, nutrient-packed accompaniment to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Being a so-called “flexitarian” who has also had the experience of living a vegetarian lifestyle for more than a decade, quinoa has been a long time staple in my diet, and not only because of its nutritional value but because I simply love its nutty taste and delicate texture that seems to pop in your mouth – plus it’s fluffy and chewy all in the same moment. Love it!
Over the last few years, I’ve been astounded to see the prices become staggeringly high and the contents of the packaging increasingly small. Only to remember: simple economics. Yes, quinoa has come a long way the last few years – from specialty health food store to mainstream menus. The popularity of quinoa continues to grow and international demand increasing, however with the slow speed of acreage our global producers Bolivia and Peru (who account for over 95% of production) have struggled to keep up with the increased demand – something we have seen reflected in the price. Gradually prices are dropping, partially due to the slowly increasing supply from Peru and Bolivia but also from other countries that have found the high prices and ever increasing demand encouraging enough to get into the quinoa growing game.
Bolivia remains to have one competitive advantage — organic quinoa, which of course nets a far larger price (as much as double) over the factory-farmed Peruvian alternative. It’s important to note, chemical fertilizers and the heavy use of pesticides make up most of Peru’s production, so not all quinoa is created equal. Buy organic.
For this recipe, I use white zucchini which is actually pale green. It’s flavor is almost identical to green zucchini — it’s just a tad bit milder and sweeter and also has a thinner and more delicate skin. Yellow zucchini which I also use, has the same basic flavor and texture as green zucchini, but it too, is slightly sweeter.
By the way, if you are not familiar with cooking quinoa, here are a few tips on preparing it:
- 1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
- To cook 1 cup (250 g) quinoa, you need 2 cups (500 ml) liquid.
- 1 cup quinoa will cook in about 20-25 minutes.
As a vegetarian meal, I love to serve this dish with a simple salad. My favorite is baby arugula leaves tossed with freshly squeezed lemon, a little olive oil and a generous dose of freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!
500 ml water
1 cup quinoa (250 g)
1 tablespoon (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
4 green onions, green and white parts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white zucchini (alternatively use green zucchini), cut into paper-thin rounds using a mandoline
1 yellow zucchini, cut into paper-thin rounds using a mandoline
3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (preferably from an organic lemon)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (80 ml)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (80 ml)
1 bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped coarsely (50 g)
freshly grated parmesan, as garnish
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high-heat. Stir in the quinoa; cook, covered over low heat for 20 minutes, or until tender. Once cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
2. In a large deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the green onion and garlic and cook until the onions starts to soften.
3. Add the zucchini. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until zucchini is slightly tender, remove from the heat.
4. Add the quinoa to the zucchini mixture, then the lemon juice, olive oil, chives and walnuts. Toss gently to combine.
5. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve garnished with parmesan.