These days, quinoa seems to be a food relegated to hippiedom—something bought in bulk at the local food co-op and eaten, perhaps, with tofu. And yet quinoa is one of the oldest grains in the world, originating in South American pre-Columbian civilization, and, along with potatoes and corn, serving as a sacred staple food for the cultures of the Andes for more than 6,000 years. Among the Inca, quinoa was known as “chisaya mama” or “the mother grain,” and was treated with ritual ceremony. Every year at the harvest, the king would sow the first quinoa seeds with a golden planting stick. And it’s no wonder why quinoa was so important: It was easy to grow, harvest, and store, and above all else packed a serious nutritional punch, containing more protein than any other grain.
For thousands of years, South American natives lived off quinoa, eating it whole, ground to flour, and even fermenting it into a beer-like beverage. All that changed in the 1500s, though, when Francisco Pizarro arrived in the Andes and colonized the Inca and other local native cultures. Pizarro and his army of Spanish colonists forbade the production of quinoa and the ceremonial rites that went along with the planting, growing, and harvesting of the grain, and planted wheat and barley in its place. While the Inca were resistant to this cultural, religious, and culinary oppression by the Spanish, quinoa was even more resistant, and continued to grow and flourish on its own in high altitudes where the Spanish would not find it. And yet even though quinoa remained, its place in the culture was forever changed.
Though people have always been eating quinoa—evidence of the grain has been found along the lower Mississippi and in Alabama—it didn’t resurface in a significant way until the 1970s, when, yes, hippies began to consume quinoa en masse. Now, once again, quinoa has become an important part of many diets, and can be found at health-food stores, boutique grocers, and Safeway, as well as on the tables of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Get reacquainted with this ancient grain with five recipes for quinoa:
1. Basic Quinoa by Crescent Dragonwagon This is quinoa at its most basic and elemental.
2. Quinoa with Corn and Scallions by Nava Atlas The addition of corn and scallions to quinoa make this dish sweet, nutty, and bright.
3. Quinoa Tabbouleh by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner In this Middle Eastern-inspired recipe, quinoa takes the place of the traditional bulgur.
4. Grilled Shrimp with Mango-Orange Quinoa and Cotijaby Laura Werlin Zesty citrus combined with salty, crumbly cheese and smoky grilled shrimp make this quinoa dish extraordinarily tasty.
5. Coconut-Spiked Pork with Quinoa and Peanuts by Judith Finlayson Think quinoa is only for vegetarians? Think again.
Click here for more quinoa recipes from Cookstr.com.
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