Blog Archive

Friday, June 26, 2015

Quinoa--Three Ways!

 Chilled Curried Cucumber Soup with Lemon-Mint Quinoa

Quinoa--Three Ways!
by Victoria Challancin

Sometimes I think it a shame that I love quinoa so much, as the cost for it in Mexico, for inexplicable reasons, is astronomical.  In the US, while visiting my son in California, I bought organic quinoa for $8.50 for 4 pounds.  Here in Mexico, I pay about the equivalent of US$10 per 400g or about US$12 per pound.  Sometimes it costs about $16 a pound--especially if red or black.  $12 to $16 per pound vs $2.13 per pound??? I feel gouged.  But I love it...and I continue to cook with it.

Here are three ways I have used quinoa in recent cooking classes I taught to Mexican cooks:  As a sprightly garnish for a chilled cucumber soup, as a salad with an interesting vinaigrette, and as a healthy filler for a raw chard wrap.  Each interesting.  Each healthy.  Each delicious.

Chilled Curried Cumbered Soup with Lemon-Mint Quinoa
This refreshing soup recipe, which I found in the latest June edition of Vegetarian Times, starts by sautéing a bit of garlic and ginger in olive oil before adding a touch of curry powder (I used Frontier brand Muchi Curry Powder, which is fantastic for those times when you don't have either the time or perhaps the inclination to make your own!) and cooking it until fragrant, a matter of seconds.  Then, basically everything for the soup is dumped into a blender and puréed.  Easy.  The quinoa garnish, which is so brightly flavored, is simply cooked quinoa mixed with olive oil, mint, parsley, lemon juice and zest.  Lovely.  

Recipe:  Chilled Curried Cucumber Soup with Lemon-Mint Quinoa
(Recipe from the Vegetarian Times Magazine, June 2015)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling (this last is optional)
2 cloves garlic (2 teaspoons), minced or pressed
2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or plain yogurt (I used plain yogurt)
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt (again, I just used plain yogurt)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided, plus leaves or sprigs for garnish (I used a few snipped chives instead)
2 teaspoons lemon juice, or more, if necessary, divided (I did use a bit more for each use)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, divided
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and ginger; sauté 1 minute, or until slightly softened.  Add curry powder, and sauté 15 to 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Remove from heat.

Blend cucumbers, yogurt, sour cream, 3 tablespoons mint, 3 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Ladle soup into shallow bowls.  Spoon 1/4 cup quinoa into middle of each bowl.  Garnish with parsley leaves, and drizzle lightly with oil.

Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries, Mint, and Feta with a Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette

While the quinoa looks a bit weird in this photo, the salad was a delight.  Fresh herbs, salty feta, tart-sweet dried cranberries, and quinoa--that delightfully crunchy miracle of Mother Nature, this salad is a winner.  Topping it with a tangy Sumac-infused vinaigrette makes it just perfect.  Next time I might add some toasted pine nuts as well, but that could be gilding the lily as this recipe lacks nothing just as written.  The original recipe by Jennifer Olvera from Serious Eats, called for dried cherries, which I would have liked even more, and pomegranate seeds, which are out of season here in Mexico.  But even tweaking it a wee bit, as I was forced to do, this is a salad for any time of the year.

Make sure not to over cook the quinoa.  Remove it from the heat source as soon as it has lost its bite, and allow it to rest a few minutes covered before fluffing it with a fork.  Also, serve at room temperature before adding the feta and dress it immediately before serving so as not to overwhelm the delicate grains of the cooked quinoa.

Recipe:  Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries, Mint, and Feta with a Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette
                  (Slightly adapted from a recipe by Jennifer Olvera of

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh juice from 2 lemons
1 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:
2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
1/3 cup chopped dried tart cherries or cranberries
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

For the vinaigrette:  Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.  Reserve.

For the salad:  Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add vinaigrette a few tablespoons at a time and tossing between additions until salad is dressed.  Serve immediately at room temperature.

 Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries, Mint and Feta in a Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette with a Damascene Hand of Fatima (see below for more details on this work)

Rainbow Chard Wraps with Quinoa and Hummus
To make these healthy, yet filling wraps, we shaved the thick stems of the chard leaves (these could be dunked into water just off the boil for 5 seconds if preferred), slathered on a chipotle-flavored hummus, added a layer of cooked quinoa (both for its texture and healthy properties), and topped it all with alfalfa sprouts, and julienned veggies such as jícama, carrots, cucumber, purple cabbage, and colored bell peppers.  Because we made a Parmesan-Basil Mayo to accompany another dish, we added that as well.  Easy, healthy, and versatile--you could make this with lettuce, collards, or other greens of choice, and fill it with whatever suits your mood!
Parting Shot:  Moroccan Damascene Work
This delicate Damascene work is based on a technique that is thousands of years old.  First, a pattern is etched into the piece (in this case a vessel, but above in a decorative Hand of Fatima), then metal wire is hammered into the etching by hand, creating an inlay.  I watched the artisan working on this in Fès in May when I lead my 11th small group there.

Interested in visiting Morocco (a cultural rather than culinary journey)?  Contact me for details of my October and April 2016 trips.

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved

Flavors of the Sun Cooking School and Travel
San Miguel de Allende,


Eha said...

Oh how exciting! Quinoa has been 'flavour of the month' in Australia for ages now, and though slightly more expensive than the other grains, is totally affordable! Just love the idea of the cucumber soup and our winter is not marked enough for me to wait till spring two months away!!! Make a salad similar to yours but have not tried cherries or pomegranate seeds . . . so heaps to try: thank you!!!

MonuTeena RecipesPassion said...

so beautifully explained n done dear

Hotly Spiced said...

I'm really surprised you have to pay so much for quinoa in Mexico. I would have thought that since it comes from South America, it would be better priced for you than anyone else. I do love the look of your chilled soup - beautiful presentation xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That is very expensive and for once I think it exceeds Australian costs which isn't easy as everything is so high here. I always associate it with South American cuisine so I would have assumed that it would be cheaper given the proximity. But these recipes look absolutely divine Victoria and ones that I would happily eat.

Gourmet Getaways said...

Oh this looks so good!
I will have to give the recipe a try.
Gourmet Getaways

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

Quinoa used to be quite expensive in Australia and then one day for no good reason it went from the price you're paying in Mexico to delightfully affordable.

Your chilled soup is beautiful to look at and I bet it's divine to eat.