Lemon-Scented Quinoa With Tahini & Chickpeas ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lemon-Scented Quinoa With Tahini & Chickpeas

You simply cannot live in Berkeley without running into quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) at every turn. But popular as it is with my hippie brethren, I did not want to like this scrappy little grain everyone was so in looooove with (probably because everyone was so in love with it...) So I avoided eating quinoa even though it meant I was often forced to go hungry at potluck dinners. And I certainly did not cook the stuff!

But after reading several glowing posts about it from other food bloggers that I respect, and hearing
my friend Nadia's warm endorsement, I decided I was ready to cast my prejudice aside and give it a try. Nadia and I decided to include this recipe for Lemon-Scented Quinoa that I'd seen on 101Cookbooks in our Mediterranean feast. Happily, it was delicious - hearty, flavorful, and interesting. I was sold!

Lemon-scented quinoa with tahini and chickpeas
Like farro, quinoa is an ancient grain. It was first cultivated in the Andean region of South America by the Incas over 6,000 years ago. So crucial was quinoa to their civilization that they called it "chisaya mama," the mother of all grains.

It is even more nutritious than farro, earning it a well-deserved designation as a "Super Grain." Not only is quinoa high in protein, it also contains all 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein which is very rare in vegetarian foods, not to mention large doses of fiber, folate, magnesium and iron. And for those who are allergic to wheat, it is happily gluten-free.
Close-up of uncooked quinoa grains

If you do not buy a boxed version, you may need to soak it for several hours to remove its protective coating of bitter saponins that keep the birds from devouring the crop before it can be harvested. However, boxed quinoa has generally been processed in this way already so it only needs to be rinsed before cooking. You'll notice that a funny little tail or curlicue appears outside the grain during cooking - this is a surefire way to tell that it's done. The cooked grains have a mild, slightly nutty flavor that goes well with both savory and sweet accompaniments.

Lemon-Scented Quinoa With Tahini & Chickpeas
Serves 4


* 1 cup quinoa
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
* 1 can garbanzo beans, or dried equivalent
* 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
* 1/2 red onion, chopped

Tahini Dressing:
* 1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
* 1/4 cup tahini
* Zest of one lemon
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons hot water
* 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt


1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer.

2. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

3. While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then the salt.

4. Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, cilantro, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing and season with more salt to taste. Serve garnished with a bit of cilantro. 

1 comment:

Miss Lynx said...

This recipe looks wonderful - I'll have to make it sometime soon!

BTW, even most bulk quinoa doesn't need soaking these days. Most kinds are already processed to removed the coating, not just the boxed ones. I don't think I've ever even seen boxed quinoa, but all the bulk quinoa I've ever bought has been fine with no soaking. I do give it a quick rinse before cooking, though.