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Quinoa, the magic grain is a must for many households focused on healthy eating. What was a relatively unknown grain just a decade or so ago, is now in such demand that farmers in South America are  unable to sell locally because the crop is exported and the prices have soared.

Although the history of quinoa is deeply rooted in South America, it crossed the Atlantic in the early 21st century according to the United Nations. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Described as a food with “high nutritive value,” it is considered an excellent source of protein, containing all essential amino acids, and phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, and zinc. A cup of cooked quinoa has less than 250 calories with a low glycemic index.

The word “quinoa” is pronounced “KEEN-wah.” It comes from the Spanish word, quinua, which itself comes from the word “kinwa” or “kinua” in the Quechua dialect.

My experiments with quinoa started a few years ago when I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Looking to adapt to new grains for my staple diet, quinoa is now my favorite and here I present several delicious recipes from the Indian repertoire.

Nirmala Garimella writes from Lexington, MA.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Patties

1 sweet potato boiled
1 cup cooked organic quinoa (cook
according to instructions of package)
½ tsp flax seeds
1 tbsp chickpea flour
¼ cups cashews or peanuts chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 green chili finely chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped ginger
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp red chili powder
tsp salt or to taste

In a large bowl, peel and mash the sweet potato. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well. Shape into patties and pan fry them with a little oil on medium heat until both sides are golden and crisp. Top them with chopped onion and cilantro. Use them creatively as a side dish, on a loaf of bread, over lentils or as ragda patties.

Quinoa Dosa

1 cup organic quinoa
1 cup urad dal
½ cup brown or white rice

Soak the above ingredients for at least eight hours and grind them in a blender smoothly (I use the Ultra Grind blender). Add salt and leave it overnight. This gives the batter time to ferment and rise to make dosas the next day. Heat an iron pan or griddle, sprinkle water, pour a spoonful of batter and spread it evenly in the shape of a dosa. When it is brown and crispy, remove and serve with peanut or coconut chutney.

Quinoa Khichdi with Vegetables and Masoor Dal

1 cup quinoa
1 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ cup chopped onions (optional)
½ tsp grated ginger
2 chopped green chillies
1 tsp cumin
2 cardamom pods whole
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ cup chopped green beans
½ cup chopped carrots
2 tbsp fried cashews pieces (optional)
2 tsp salt
Ghee or oil

Add a teaspoon of ghee or olive oil to a deep bottomed pan. Once it heats, add cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and chopped onions. Saute till the onions turns translucent, add ginger, green chillies, turmeric, vegetables, quinoa and masoor dal. Toss for about three minutes to immerse the grain and the vegetables with the spices. Add four cups water and salt and simmer on a slow flame till cooked and the water is all absorbed. It should be light and fluffy. Add crushed cashews as garnish to give it a nutty flavor.
Serve with pappad, and tomato chutney.