Written by Ed Lincoln, Jr.
Quinoa, one of the newly lauded superfoods of the decade along with avocados, beets, sweet potatoes, and beer, finds its origin in the regions of Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Chile. Quinoa was domesticated for human consumption nearly four thousand years ago and is an alternative source of income in those Third World countries that relied heavily on drug trafficking and has helped feed families and supplement their income.
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, not quinn-NOAH, is a relative of the gooseberry and is closely related to spinach and beet roots. This newly arrived superfood is so chock-full of greatness that the benefits, vitamins, and minerals are too lengthy to list, but here are just a few highlights so you can understand its potency; Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Vitamin E, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc. Typically when purchasing quinoa you have the option of red or white, and they are processed to wash away saponin, a bitter coating on the exterior. Saponin is a great deterrent for birds and small animals that would generally feast on it, so the defense mechanism works well as quinoa is distributed in bulk world-wide. However, after purchasing your quinoa, rinse it thoroughly with cold water to ensure the saponin is removed, unless of course you enjoy high levels of bitterness on your palate.
This day and age has shown a large increase in cooking shows and reality restaurant shows, merely for entertainment it seems, as studies prove that actually fewer people are cooking “scratch” meals at home and not implementing the family sit-down dinner that was a staple in years past. Researchers attribute the obesity problem in the United States to quick and pain-free purchasing of fast food and processed foods. The goal for this column is to possibly inspire some of the readers to use the information provided to try some healthy and tasty alternatives. Even if they do this only once, it will be considered a success. Executive Chef Talon Lewis from The Railroad House Restaurant in Marietta has provided a recipe offered on their menu. Talon exercises the use of local ingredients whenever possible, and maintains the seasonal, local, and organic approach throughout the year, changing the menu at least six times a year. Take your time and enjoy the process of what cooks and chefs do on a daily basis, but fifty-fold. If attempting this seems daunting, you can always stop in the Railroad House and have one made for you, but I believe you will have a great sense of accomplishment when you finish this appetizer dish on your own!
Asparagus and Quinoa Salad
You will need: Asparagus, red or white quinoa, orange supreme, carrot, fresh garlic, cucumber, red bell pepper, mixed greens, your favorite nut, and a lite Italian vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.
Asparagus prep: Cut off an inch wood end and set in a pan with a small amount of olive oil: salt and pepper on top to taste and grill until tender. Chill and cut in thirds, then cut those sections in half lengthwise.
Quinoa prep: 1 Cup of quinoa to 2 cups water. 1 teaspoon of fresh minced garlic and cook until liquid is gone, stirring throughout the process. Cool quinoa, and add diced cucumber and red bell pepper mixing throughout quinoa.
Toss quinoa in your favorite dressing, lightly at first, till it tastes just right. Then, you will spoon the quinoa in small mounds on a plate. Lay out asparagus and orange supreme on top of the quinoa. Add your mixed greens lightly and add shredded carrots and your favorite nut to garnish the top, and VOILA! You’re on the way to a healthy salad or side dish, or grill some shrimp or your favorite fish and create an entrée. ENJOY!