Thursday, September 16, 2010


In my quest to eat healthier and increase protein, I’ve been experimenting with more obscure grains. Things like spelt, wheat berries, quinoa and amaranth. They taste like a cross been a pasta and rice, with more texture than plain old pasta. The most attractive aspect of these grains (and sometimes they aren’t even actually grains but seeds) is their rich nutrient profile.

One cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 227 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat. Best of all, it provides a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are needed by the body but must be obtained through food. It is difficult to find complete proteins outside of animal foods, which makes quinoa even more special.

I love quinoa. The texture is slightly creamy but also a little crunchy, and it has a taste somewhere between whole wheat pasta and an almond. I’ve been trying to find new ways to eat quinoa and Quinoa with Tahini Dressing is my latest development. It blends the flavors of falafels with the nutrition of quinoa. I had it for lunch yesterday and the whole time I was eating, I was wishing my lunch would never end.

I adapted this recipe from and basically just trimmed the fat in the dressing and replaced cilantro with parsley. I bought the parsley by mistake because I was tired and in a rush at the grocery store, but it really enhanced the Middle Eastern flavors rocking this dish so I’m happy with my choice. Feel free to try either herb, depending on your preferences. Also, if you go with the parsley, I think tomatoes and cucumbers would complement the dish very nicely.

Quinoa with Tahini Dressing

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans, or dried equivalent
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ onion, chopped

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
¼ cup tahini
Zest of ¼ lemon
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup hot water
Sea salt to taste

Fill pan with warm water and add quinoa to soak for about 8 minutes. Then rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, sea salt and the 2 cups of 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.

While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and water. Add the salt to taste.
Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, parsley, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing if you like and season with more salt to taste. Serve garnished with a bit of parsley.

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a small meal.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Lemon-scented quinoa

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