In Praise of Quinoa

It was a college friend who first insisted that Nicole Spiridakis try quinoa. “You’re a vegetarian,” her friend told her. “This stuff is a complete protein — you gotta eat it.”

Spiridakis wasn’t so sure:

This was early on in my meat-free career, and … I looked askance at the pot of crumbly white seeds. When it was piled high on my plate and augmented with sautéed squash, I still wasn’t at all sure I’d like it. But I took one bite, and I was hooked. After that, plain old rice just didn’t cut it anymore.

In a piece on NPR’s Kitchen Window, Spiridakis shares her fondness for quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a grain so complete that the Incas called it the “mother of all grains,” though quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain. “I love the texture of quinoa,” she writes, “a bit crunchy and chewy, still firm after cooking — and its nutty, earthy flavor.” Quinoa has been classified by the United Nations as a “super crop,” due to its high protein content.

Spiridakis isn’t the only quinoa convert. I was on the fence for a long time myself, but I’m firmly in the quinoa camp these days (this may not be PC for the vegetarian set, but I love how the crunch of the round little seeds reminds me of tobiko). With a couple of quinoa recipes in the Kitchen Window story as well, perhaps you too could be won over by the charms of the Inca supergrain.