I first tasted quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") when I lived in Ecuador. It's one of the ancient grains cultivated by the Inca people of the Andes Highlands for over 5000 years. The UN has classified quinoa as a "super-crop." It contains more protein than any other grain. Its relatives are not other cereals, but spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. I've heard that it's related to pigweed as well. We call it a grain because of the way it's cooked and used.
I made this salad this past weekend. My husband wasn't thrilled with it, but my daughters were, and our Spanish houseguest enjoyed it. It's fresh and crunchy, similar to tabbouleh salad.
Quinoa Vegetable Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Combine the quinoa, water, salt and oil in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Most of the water will have been absorbed. I like to spread out the quinoa on a baking tray to cool quickly, but that's optional. Cool it one way or another.
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium English cucumber, chopped
3 Tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all of the above with the quinoa. This can be served at room temperature or chilled. Other additions might include chopped black olives, or sweet red peppers.