I've been on a vegetarian bent since Sunday, largely because it was my husband's birthday last week, and that meant several days of Kevin's favorites: steak, cherry pie, fried chicken, red wine... Yum.
It was fun to slip into Southern kitchen queen mode for a spell, especially to celebrate, but I was in dire need of a healthy diet by the time Sunday morning rolled around. Happily, my grand (diabolical?) conversion scheme--winning Kevin over to my Northern California way of eating--seems to be working, albeit in slow spurts (I've modified to a 10-year plan). Dare I say he seemed happy--or at least compliant?--about a few days of vegetarian fare. Hee hee.
The quinoa in my cupboard called my name, so I used that as a starting point.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is often called “the mother grain”, which is more than a little misleading, given that it’s not really a grain at all. Rather, quinoa is a sweet, nutty seed from a plant related to chard and spinach. It’s as easy to cook as rice—maybe easier—and every bit as versatile, from side dishes, to stuffings, even breakfast and dessert.
You’ll find quinoa at most supermarkets and health-food stores in its whole form, like so:
The only “trick” to cooking quinoa is the rinsing. This is not a fussy step, but a required one: quinoa is naturally coated with a bitter substance, saponin (it’s thought to keep away birds and animals). Most quinoa has been "desaponized." However, it's still a good idea to rinse it under running water in a fine-mesh strainer before cooking to remove any remaining residue.
And now, more good news: quinoa seeds contain twice the protein of rice, though it's the quality of the protein that stands out. With all nine essential amino acids, including lysine, quinoa is considered a complete protein.
It’s rich in both vitamin B2 (riboflavin), magnesium, B6 and E, and also has high levels of iron and zinc. There’s more: it’s also a good source of dietary fiber, packing 5.2 grams per 1 cup serving. What a food! I’ll be sharing more quinoa recipes, soon; I have some dessert ideas in mind…
As for the other night, I settled on a batch of quinoa burgers. This is an adaptation of a recipe from Martha Stewart's Body + Soul magazine. I've been enamored of quinoa since I first tried it a few years ago, and when I saw this recipe a while back, I knew I had to try it. It's been worth preparing several times over. Enjoy!
Quinoa Burgers with Hummus & Roasted Red Peppers
1/2 cup quinoa, well-rinsed under cold water
1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 15-ounce can white beans (e.g. cannellini or great northern beans), drained and rinsed
1/3 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten (or 1/4 cup silken tofu for a vegan burger)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 whole grain or regular hamburger buns
Accompaniments: purchased hummus, salad greens, jarred roasted red bell peppers
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, green onions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg (or tofu), cumin, salt, and pepper. Pulse until just blended (and still slightly chunky).
Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick). If too soft, refrigerate 15 minutes to firm.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes per side.
Toast the buns and spread with some of the hummus. Top with the burgers, greens and red bell peppers. Makes 4 hearty burgers.
Nutrition per serving (1 burger, 1 bun, 2 tablespoons hummus):
Calories 272; Fat 5.7g (poly 1.8g, mono 1.5g, sat 0.8g); Protein 17.3g; Cholesterol 9mg; Carbohydrate 18.6g; Sodium 232mg; Fiber 8.8g)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)