Monday, January 9, 2012

Ancient Inca Tri-Quinoa Stew...

Yesterday was a relatively chilly day, it was also a rather busy day for me, coming at the end of a busy weekend. I wanted something warming, and hearty for dinner that wouldn’t take all that much effort or time on my part, and I wanted to incorporate Quinoa. I’ve been really craving this delicious little grain over the past few days, and as I never seem to eat enough of it, I really wanted to make a dish that would showcase it prominently.

For those of you unfamiliar with Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) it is a grain like crop, hailing from the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru, where it was domesticated for human consumption roughly 4000 years ago. Quinoa is a very nutrient dense food, containing all the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein! It’s also a good source of fiber, calcium, phosphorus and iron. The Incas held this crop as sacred and referred to it as the "Mother of all Grains" and is it any wonder? A 100g serving of Quinoa contains 7g of fiber, 14g of protein, 35% Iron, 55% Magnesium, 65% phosphorus, 33% Zinc, and many B Vitamins as well as Vitamin E. Amazing! Quinoa was also called the "Gold of the Incas" because they recognized and utilized it’s value. Inca warriors would often sit down to a big dish of Quinoa just before battle because they believed this grain made them strong and powerful.

What I really love about quinoa - aside from it’s delicious flavor of course - is it’s versatility. You can use it in any way that you’d traditionally use rice, barley, cous cous or other grains. I’ve seen people make Greek Dolmas with Quinoa, and it’s becoming more and more popular to make sushi with it as well. You can steam or stir-fry veggies to spoon over top of it, use it in stew, soup or chili, toss it into salads or even eat it as a breakfast porridge instead of oatmeal as the Inca did. Quinoa is also very quick to cook, in roughly 20 minutes you can have a big steaming pot of it ready to go. Personally I like to cook mine in low-sodium vegetable broth - as I do with rice and cous cous - but water is totally fine too. So if you haven’t tried quinoa you absolutely must, and if you have tried it an liked it you should try to make it a staple in your diet for it’s wonderful health benefits! Just make sure you rinse your Quinoa first to remove any bitter residue.

As for this stew, I wanted something with a South American flair that would compliment the Quinoa’s region or origin, but at the same time I wanted a stew that was lightly seasoned. Too often our food is overly spiced and so the natural flavors don’t get the chance to truly shine through. In this dish I wanted to be able to taste the nuttiness of the Quinoa, the sweetness of the corn, the tanginess of lime and the acidity of the tomatoes. However if you want the stew to be a little more spicy or a little more sweet or a little more tart feel free to adjust the seasonings to suit your preference, oh and while I’ve listed the avocado as being optional I definitely recommend it. It pairs so beautifully with the stew and lends a wonderful mouth feel to have creamy raw avocado mixed in with your hot grainy stew. Although a dollop or two of guacamole would probably be just as good if you’d prefer.

Okay, before I get to it let me just say that I know this is going to look like a lot of ingredients but trust me when I say this dish is actually really simple and comes together very easy. You hardly have to do any chopping and most of the cook time is spent with you just sitting around waiting for the stew to finish simmering. There Is so much you can do in that downtime. Shower, read, check your e-mail you name it. It’s the perfect after work dinner. Throw everything in a pot and go!

Ancient Inca Tri-Quinoa Stew

1/4 C Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
10 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Large Red Onion
1 Orange Bell Pepper
6-10 Baby Bella Mushrooms chopped
½ C White Quinoa
½ C Black Quinoa
½ C Red Quinoa
3 ½ C Vegetable Broth
1 ½ C Corn Kernels
1 15 oz Can Black Beans
1 28oz Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
3 tsp Chili Powder
3 tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1/8 tsp White Pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
Black Pepper to taste
3-4Tbsp Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 Bunch Cilantro minced
Sliced Avocado (Optional but highly recommended)

- Pour quarter cup of vegetable broth and 2 tbsp of lime juice into a soup pot. Add minced garlic, onion, and bell pepper and saute on medium until veggies are soft and translucent. About 5-7 minutes, sprinkle with black pepper to taste, add in mushrooms and saute another 3-4 minutes.

- Add all quinoa to the pot along with the fire roasted tomatoes and remaining 3 ½ C vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Let boil for five minutes then reduce heat and let simmer for 35 minutes.

- Add in Corn kernels, black beans, chili powder, cumin, oregano, white pepper, and smoked paprika and let simmer another 15-20 minutes.

- By now Quinoa should be fully cooked and expanded and the amount of liquid in the pot should have decreased some. If this is not the case then let simmer an additional ten minutes. Otherwise add in Cilantro, the last 3 tbsp of lime juice, and agave nectar. Stir to combine, simmer for 5 minutes and then serve.

- Garnish with half a sliced avocado per bowl, and serve with a side salad or a hunk of cornbread. I decided to serve mine with cornbread. The basic recipe for which I got from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book "The Joy of Vegan Baking" However I added in a 1/3 C of minced cilantro and 2 Tbsp of minced Jalapeno for a little Latin kick.

***Note: I realize not all of you may have access to so many different types of Quinoa, so if you don’t, don’t fret. It’s perfectly all right to use whatever kind you have and I don’t think the flavor of the stew will suffer for it. Although Black Quinoa is my absolute favorite so if you can find it I highly recommend you grab some! Also you can use any bell pepper you have, I would have used red but orange was the only kind I had at the time.***


  1. This looks like a great comfort dinner! I was looking through my pantry and fridge and have all the ingredients....I plan on trying this dish!....My husband loves stews, chilli's cassaroles, so I'm sure he will love this...I on the other hand am NOT a fan of Cilantro so I will omit it! Today I made a awesome veggie soup for dinner! Tomorrow I will try this Quinoa stew with home cornbread! Thank you for great receipts! S.T.

  2. Well, besides the beans part of it... lol It looks good! I know I didn't find this 1 particularly great but that's just b/c you know I'm not a big bean fan. However, I did like the other ingredients & I'm sure anyone who is a stew fan would love this. - M