Americans love quinoa. It’s the Meryl Streep of grains.
It’s been the great whole grain success story, and continues to grow. I attended the Whole Grains Council conference in September, where trendologist Kara Nielsen gave us a fascinating presentation on food trends. According to Nielsen, food go through phases of inception, adoption, proliferation, and finally, ubiquity in the marketplace. Quinoa is firmly in the proliferation phase, and because it is moving onto menus at Wendy’s and other large chain restaurants, is is poised to hit ubiquity.
In pop culture terms, ubiquity is Meryl Streep level. It’s household name level fame. Not flash in the pan famous-because-it’s-famous fame, but earned fame from a body of high-quality work. Quinoa. Meryl Streep. Maybe?
The other side of that rise to ubiquity has been the concern that our appetite for a grain that was only grown in the mountains of South America was causing problems. Stories of Peruvians who could not afford to buy the staple grain, and even violence over prime growing land gave quinoa a dark side. It created a dilemma for shoppers.
Is quinoa really sustainable, and is our hunger for it harming the people of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador? There’s no simple answer. But a major change is in the works. We have finally cracked the code to grow quinoa in the US.
It wasn’t as simple as just planting a few seeds.
It took years of work by plant breeders, like Kevin Murphy at Washington State University, to develop varieties that could grow here. Quinoa thrived in the cold, rocky mountains of the Andes for centuries, and doesn’t do well if the temps hit 95F, or if it rains when the grains are close to maturity. With some careful breeding, there are now Quinoas being grown in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and other regions that don’t get too hot.
So look for American grown quinoa and give it a try. It’s being marketed by Lundberg Farms and may even be in that bulk bin.
To celebrate this new, American made quinoa, I cranked up my oven and made a roasted broccoli quinoa bowl.
Broccoli, the brassica that took a back seat to kale in recent times, roasts fast and takes a good sear from the pan. I always want to cut it so that each piece has a flat side to make full contact with the pan. Then crank the oven to 425, so it’s really searing that surface before it’s completely limp. Add some slivered red chiles and red onions, to caramelize and shrivel to a sweet, chewy background, and you have a winning combination of veggies.
The new quinoa has all the nutty-tasting charm that we love. To go with it, a roasted veggie medley has lots of sweetness going on, and salty, creamy feta is a perfect pairing.
For a sauce with some weight, I went with a pesto-like puree with arugala, lots of lemon and olive oil, and thickened it with a little yogurt. Arugala is my go-to herb when basil is no longer free from my backyard plot. The leafy greens are just as flavorful as basil, but since they are considered salad, they are a bargain all winter long.
Now that quinoa is near “ubiquity,” we can breathe a sigh of relief. American grown quinoa gives is a chance to support American farmers, and take some pressure off the Andean growers. When you see quinoa bowls at Applebee’s and McDonalds, you’ll know, the Meryl Streep of grains is here.
Roasted Broccoli and Chile Bowl with Creamy Arugala Sauce
Look for the new American grown quinoa and give it a try in this dish, or keep supporting economic growth in South America. It will be delicious either way.
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups broccoli floret
1 medium red onion, slivered
2 large red fresno chile, slivered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt)
1 cup arugala
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (for a vegan feta click here)
Cook the quinoa in the water for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Drizzle a tablespoon of the oil on a sheet pan and add the broccoli, red onion and chile. Toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, until the onions are browned and shrunken and the broccoli is browned. Let cool slightly.
In the Vitamix, combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, arugala, garlic and salt and secure the lid. Start on low speed and gradually increase to high, then blend until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
Serve the quinoa in bowls, topped with the broccoli mixture, the sauce, and crumbled feta.