Quinoa; something old is new again
If you are looking for a Cinderella story these days, you might want to consider quinoa. Though largely ignored by the outside world since the fall of the Incan empire, quinoa remained an important dietary staple for Andean peasants down through the centuries. Almost overnight it seems, quinoa has risen to become a culinary superstar and valued wedding guest.
Not Quite Overnight
For the past few decades, quinoa has been gaining ground with natural food enthusiasts and those following a gluten-free diet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) even considered quinoa for life support systems in space during the 1990’s, due to its unique nutritional profile.
Catapulted to Greatness
Over the past five years though, interest in quinoa has exploded. Once a curious entry in vegan cookbooks and an odd flour for celiac sufferers, quinoa is now available in grocery stores around the world.
This seed they call chisaya mama (mother grain) sits at the top of the gourmet culinary trends for this decade and will reign supreme in 2013, the year the United Nations has designated the International Year of Quinoa.
Many features contribute to the popularity of quinoa.
Quinoa is wholegrain. Botanists point out that quinoa is not technically a grain because it is a goosefoot plant and not a member of the grass family. While this is true, prepared quinoa contains the entire seed case or endosperm making it a “whole grain” like brown rice and whole wheat.
Quinoa is high in lysine. Nutritionists call quinoa a complete protein because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Of these, lysine is the one hardest to find in plant-based proteins, and quinoa has a healthy balance of lysine.
Quinoa is versatile. Like rice, quinoa takes on the flavors of the vegetables and seasonings with which it is prepared. Quinoa cooks up in fifteen minutes and is elegant whether served warm or cold.
Brides Clamor for Quinoa
One thing has not changed down through the years: as a wedding day approaches, the bride and her maids rush to optimize their waistlines before the big day. These days, many of these bridal parties are slimming down with quinoa.
Quinoa has become the hot diet recommendation because it is compatible with nearly every plan. Whether modern brides come to quinoa through a vegan, gluten-free, high-protein, or high-fiber regimen, when planning their wedding, they are calling for quinoa on the menu.
Chefs Respond with Gourmet Quinoa
As a consequence, you would be hard-pressed to find a gourmet caterer who does not offer quinoa these days. Quinoa salads and pilafs can be designed to satisfy every possible dietary restriction. language conversion Mothers-of-the-brides and other hostesses are delighted to find menu items that work for everyone from vegetarians to those suffering with celiac disease. Most recipes can be adjusted if required to support the needs of those who must avoid nuts or dairy as well.
Some chefs are even presenting quinoa outside the side dish category and including it in gourmet appetizers and desserts. Flavorful quinoa lettuce wraps and colorful quinoa parfaits have elevated quinoa far beyond its humble status as a subsistence food.
The Belle of the Ball
From garden party to bridal shower, quinoa has secured its place on the menus of the trendiest gourmet restaurants and caterers. With its versatility, great taste, and superb nutritional profile, we expect quinoa will remain a favorite for years to come.
Have you been served quinoa at weddings or other events you have attended lately? We would love for you to share your experience in the comments below.
©2012 Tammi Kibler