17 February 2012

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And now, for a little something different ... for me, that is. Quinoa.

This month's challenge took us back to the very first cookbook that we used when beginning to participate in Dom's Random Recipe blogshare ... for me, it was Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

The random recipe turned out to be something that I have never tried ... Peruvian Quinoa Stew. I quaked. Quinoa is very new to me. I've had it but once in a cool summer salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and a tangy vinaigrette. The dish reminded me of tabouleh. This recipe, however, is a warm and spicy winter stew.  I made a fast meatloaf to have with it, but it could easily stand on its own with just a slab of crusty bread for soaking up the juices. I was so pleasantly surprised - it was delicious ... and healthy ... and low calorie  ... and filling.

Hurray! Did I tell you I'm dieting? I'm dieting ... and filling is a good thing right now.

Quinoa. It's a grass-like plant that's native to South America. It's was staple of of the Andean indigenous cultures' diet. Today it's used in soups, stews, salads, breakfast porridge, and any dishes that resemble pilaf or couscous. In times before the Spanish conquest, quinoa was as important a foodstuff as potatoes and maize. It fell out of favor with the colonials, though, and was replaced for a long time by wheat. Unfortunate for the indigenous, as the quinoa is much more nutritious ... high in iron and a complete protein. Enough said? It's good for you. You should try it. Oh... and it's gluten-free if that's important to you.

I bought a white variety, but there are also red and black varieties of quinoa. It's important to soak/rinse the quinoa before cooking, as the tiny seeds have a soapy natural chemical coating that can be a bit bitter and have a laxative effect. THAT could be a real surprise ... so take heed and read the package on any quinoa that you purchase to see if it has been washed before packaging. Just sayin' ... don't want any nasty surprises.

On to the recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Stew, this is a really easy recipe. It can be prepared and on the table in just about 35 to 45 minutes. You just need a pile of vegetables and some spices to make it. So here you go! Give it a try ... it's high in protein because of the quinoa, low in calories because of all the vegetables, and extremely flavourful because of all the spices! What could be better?

Peruvian Quinoa Stew - printer friendly

Peruvian Quinoa Stew
a Moosewood Restaurant recipe

½ c. quinoa
1 c. water
2 c. onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼ inch slice
1 small green pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 small zucchini, cut into small cubes
2 c. canned tomatoes in their juices or fresh tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved to add
1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
½ tsp. chili powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 tsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
Salt to taste

Optional Garnishes:

Chopped cilantro
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Making the Dish:

1. Place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well under cold water. Drain and add to 1 c. water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered for about 15 minutes, until the quinoa has softened. Turn the heat off and set the pan aside to rest.

2. Place the olive oil in a deep fry pan with the onions and garlic. Bring the heat up under the pan and sauté until soft and shiny.

3. Add the carrots and celery and continue the sauté for another 5 minutes.

4. Add the green pepper and zucchini and get them hot, stirring frequently.

5. Add the spices and stir them in well, letting the heat release their essence.

6. Pour in the tomatoes, juices, and broth. Bring the whole to a slow bubble and turn the heat way down.

7. Let the stew simmer uncovered until the peppers and carrots have softened to a tender firm bite.

8. Stir in the quinoa, tossing everything to distribute. Salt to taste. Serve immediately with any garnishes you like.

Serves 4


  1. Mmmm, that looks awesome! With the tomatoes and spices, I'm expecting it to taste kind of like chili...does it? I think I'll make a batch of this to take to work for lunches. I love filling up on low-cal protein rich foods at lunch. And I love quinoa too, but I never knew you needed to soak it first. I guess mine must be pre-soaked/rinsed because I've never had any "nasty surprises" LOL.

    1. The coriander makes me feel like it's more 'exotic' than chili.

  2. I've only tried quinoa once and it was for breakfast. It was mixed with honey and cinnamon etc. I wasn't fond of it at all and haven't tried it since. I should probably give it another try as this really does look yummy!

    1. I'm working up my courage to try a breakfast recipe, Brenda! It's nutty flavoured so maybe I'd do okay with some dried fruit and other nuts in it and a dollop of vanilla yogurt. The bag I bought was pricey, so I have to come up with a few other options.

  3. Quinoa can be quite pricy especially the red and black ones. But the white ones do go on sale at the healthfood store. Was on sale few weeks ago so I stocked up. Your stew sounds delicious, must try.

  4. I have never cooked with quinoa but this recipe makes it look really intriguing. I also LOVE that cookbook. It looks so rustic and full of homemade goodness. Thank you so much for celebrating my first birthday with me. It's so lovely to have you on board and I hope you enjoyed revisiting the book. Xx

  5. I've made salads with quinoa, but never a dish like this, Susan. It looks healthy and flavorful.

    Re: the last post:
    Nice choice, Susan. Delia was definitely an interesting game changer. It has been quite an education, hasn't it?

  6. I don't use enough quinoa in my kitchen. I love the information you shared with us and the stew really sounds delicious. I've bookmarked your recipe. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  7. Ah, quinoa. I recommend buying quinoa in bulk to keep the costs down. It stores like any other grain, so it's a good thing to have on hand in case of snack emergencies. I have often made it when in need of a quick "pasta" fix... quinoa mixed with shallots sauteed in a little olive oil, and throw some parsley on top for good measure. Much healthier than a plate of pasta with butter and cheese.

    1. You know me too well, dearie! BUT does it really taste as good as pasta loaded with butter and cheese? haha!

  8. I do enjoy quinoa but if I make a veg stew then I usually think of couscous. Next time I'll try quinoa instead. I like the idea of just a little shredded cheese on top as well.

  9. Quinoa is one of my favourite ingredients at the moment so I'm always on the look out for new ingredients.
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. I LOVE quinoa! i know everyone seems to associate it with health food i.e. not tasty, but I really liek it! It's liek nuttier couscous, and healthier at that (:

  11. Susan,
    I can't wait to try this recipe.
    My family loves quinoa. If you have the Bow Mills Cookbook try the mix and match side dish recipe or try using quinoa in any pilaf type recipe.

    1. Hey MJ! Thanks for stopping into the blog! I used quinoa the other night with dried cranberries, apricots, and pecans ... with just a dab of butter - it was very pilaf-like only nuttier.

  12. I've never tried quinoa but love the flavourings in this recipe so might be persuaded to give it a go - I think it would have to be a solo eating job though, even cous cous is pushing it for my husband! I always get distracted trying to pronounce it im my head - I think the correct pronunciation is keen-wa, is that right? And yet, even though I know that, I still want to call it phonetically, kwin-oh-ah.

  13. I generally lack quinoa inspiration and end up chucking it in a salad - so this is definitely one I will be trying!

  14. I tried this recipe and it was great. Seemed like a cross between veggie chili and veggie soup. My husband doesn't like very spicey food so i used about half the amount of seasonings and he thought it was really good. My daughter said it was great but she would use the full amount of seasoning if making it herself. I did add carrots and celery at the same time as onions and it worked fine. This recipe would probably work well with lots of other grains or rices. I plan to try a few different ones.

  15. I couldn't resist including this recipe in my top eight vegetarian comfort food recipes roundup! http://blog.mixbook.com/8-tried-and-true-meatless-comfort-food-recipes/


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