I don’t know why more people don’t eat quinoa on a regular basis. This grain-like superfood has a subtle nutty flavor and a little toothiness missing from boring old rice or couscous. And notice the shape: adorable little balls with curly tails. You can do anything with quinoa you were tempted to try with brown rice or couscous, and then some.
Quinoa is practically a miracle food, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Not only is this tasty wonder high in protein (8 grams per serving), but it is also a complete protein. That means it has a full set of amino acids all in one food. Pow! Take that couscous!
But wait–there’s more!
Pseudocereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are used like grains, but aren’t members of the grass family like true grains. They are actually related to beets and spinach. Unlike wheat, pseudocereals contain no gluten. That makes them perfect staples of a gluten-free diet as well as great additions to any healthy diet. They also have a low glycemic index, so they are a better choice for diabetics or anyone concerned about blood sugar. Plus quinoa is filling and a good source of fiber and minerals. (Check out its full nutritional profile on SelfNutritionData.)
Couscous, by the way, is not a grain either; it is actually tiny pasta balls. I hope you weren’t eating it because you thought it was better for you than rice or pasta.
Quinoa is not some new-fangled health food store product. It is an ancient food source, prized in pre-Columbian Latin America. Because it was sacred to the Incan culture, Spanish conquistadors decided it was un-Christian and destroyed the crop and forbid its cultivation. Today quinoa is just beginning to re-emerge and make its way into the mainstream. You will likely find it in the natural food section of your grocery store in a box near the rice or perhaps in the bulk section.
I created the recipe below when I was pondering what to stuff in the acorn squash I’d bought at the farmer’s market. I found a recipe for stuffed squash in my trusty New Moosewood Cookbook, but Mollie Katzen called bread crumbs “from good bread.” I had a can of pre-flavored breadcrumbs but that didn’t seem right and I didn’t have bread to make my own. Besides, who needs bread when we had quinoa? The final recipe takes some liberties with the original, in addition to the quinoa swapped for bread crumbs. The stuffing came out so good, it could stand alone as vegetarian stuffing at, say, a fall feast.
Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing
- 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water to cook quinoa
- 2 large acorn squashes, halved and seeds scooped out and insides rubbed with olive oil
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 cup minced onion
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 6 dried apricots, minced
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (leave out for the vegan version)
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Cook the quinoa in veggie broth or water on your stove or in a rice cooker, just as you’d prepare rice.
- Meanwhile, roast the squash, cut side down on a baking sheet or dish at 375° for 25 minutes
- While quinoa and squash are cooking, get to work on the stuffing: Saute the onion, mushrooms, garlic and celery in the olive oil.
- When the quinoa is finished cooking, stir to fluff.
- When the squash have cooked for 25 minutes, pull them out of the oven and lower the temperature to 350°
- In a mixing bowl, add quinoa, sauteed mixture, salt, pepper, spices, lemon juice, walnuts, sunflower seeds, apple, and apricots. Stir well and then add the Parmesan cheese (optional) and stir again.
- Turn your squash over and stuff generously with quinoa mixture. Bake covered 20-30 minutes until the squash is tender. You may want to uncover them towards the end to toast up the stuffing.