Quinoa and Amaranth and ‘Man-Corn’

I was intrigued to read the Chief Conspirator’s post on grains, and functional grains, including the comments on quinoa, the Andean grain – I believe technically a flower, but treated in cooking like a grain – that has very high protein content and low sugars.  As it happens, I cook with quinoa a lot, and read Eugene’s post as a pot of quinoa was bubbling on the stove for dinner tonight.

For all the usual middle-aged reasons, I am striving valiantly to follow the doctor’s commands to go for lower glycemic foods, and quinoa is excellent in that regard.  I use in preference to couscous for that reason.  Cooking quinoa is easy, with one note.  You can buy it either pre-washed or un-washed.  If it needs to be washed, you have to take a lot of time with cold running water in order to get rid of a slightly sticky surface substance that has a bitter taste and which, so one cookbook says, is intended to make it less palatable to animals like deer.  It is very easy to buy the pre-washed stuff these days, however.

As Eugene suggests, I always cook it in some kind of stock, and I usually add some cooking wine as well.  What I currently have going on the stove is a mixture of cooking wine, water, chicken stock, garlic and herbes de provence.  I’ve also added to it a can of diced tomatoes including the juice, and in this case I will also add a can of chopped clams including the juice.  Sometimes for additional flavor I stir in a can of anchovies in olive oil.  When really feeling decadent, I will stir in parmesan cheese and turn it into a sort of risotto.  Today I’ve added some wild rice that I soaked overnight.  Once cooked, I’ll finish it with a little bit of red wine or balsamic vinegar, perhaps some lemon or lime juice, and then a slug of spicy olive oil.  This is all incredibly easy to cook, because it just simmers and gradually cooks down to concentrate the flavors.

I also frequently cook quinoa together with the tiny, tiny amaranth grain (flower?), otherwise known as pigweed, which is the grain of the Aztecs and the Valley of Mexico, although it grows wild across the American southwest.  Traditionally served in Tenochtitlan mixed with human flesh from the sacrifices, I’m afraid, with corn and other foods.  Very high protein and easy digestibility and easy cooking, even without the “man-corn” part.