Up until tonight I had never tried quinoa. No particular reason, I had just never gotten around to buying some and making it. Last week, however, I was looking at the Buzz Box (recipes that have been most commented on, for good or for bad, within a certain period) on Epicurious and came across this recipe which people raved about.
In case you are curious, quinoa has been a staple to Bolivian diet for centuries being rich in essential amino acids. The plant has only recently become popular in America and Europe. Quinoa is also not a grain, as I thought until today, but actually a chenopod, related to spinach and beets.
The recipe sounded flavorful, easy and healthy, which turned out to be true once I prepared it. Plus, all the ingredients cost pennies, another plus as newlyweds living on my meager salary and student loans.
I made a few additions to the recipe. I added a minced jalapeno that I had deseeded (unfortunately the jalapeno provided no heat). I also added some frozen corn that I roasted in a cast iron pan, which added a lovely sweetness to the dish. Finally, I cooked the quinoa in 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock. I rinsed the quinoa, then put the quinoa and vegetable stock in a 2 quart pot and brought to a boil, reduced the heat and let it simmer until tender for about 25 minutes.
The dish tasted so fresh and wonderful from the lime vinaigrette to the fresh tomatoes to the cilantro. It was a great, quick weeknight meal. You do not necessarily need to as quinoa is a complete protein, but if you feel the need to add more protein, a grilled chicken breast or fresh fish or shrimp would be great served alongside this dish.
Side note and maybe a little soap box: I came across this article on the NY Times website today about quinoa’s rising prices and the affect that is having on Bolivian farmers. Because quinoa has become so popular in America and Europe it has become too expensive for Bolivians to afford. While the demand for quinoa has been good for the economic growth of regions, the Bolivian government is seeing a rise in child malnutrition among quinoa farmers, according to the article.
The most disturbing part of the article for me was reading David Schnorr’s, one of the largest quinoa importers in the United States, response to the problem. He states, “It’s kind of discouraging to see stuff like this happen, but that’s part of life and economics.” I am sorry, but hunger and child malnutrition is never part of life and economics especially when the problem could be easily fixed, or so it seems to me. Why couldn’t part of the quinoa be set aside for consumption within Bolivia at a cheaper price?
Obviously the problem lies in both the importer and the Bolivian exporters. If American and European companies are willing to pay a higher premium for the crop, the Bolivian producers are obviously going to sell to those companies instead of trying to help their fellow countrymen. Hopefully by the NY Times shedding some light on the subject, a solution can be worked out.
But it also makes me stop to ponder what should my response be to such a situation?
Thanks for sticking with me. Here is the recipe.
- 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups frozen corn, roasted in a cast iron pan
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.
Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.
Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.