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Quinoa hearts are a tasty side dish for Valentine’s Day

Start with cooked quinoa!
Start with cooked quinoa!
P O'Beollain

Quinoa, a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. As a chenopod, quinoa is of the same family as white goosefoot (a wild edible common in this area) and is also closely related to spinach and tumbleweeds! Quinoa is high in protein and gluten-free. Quinoa is quite nutritious, containing more protein content per calorie than brown rice, barley and millet, and it is a good source of complete protein. Quinoa is also a good source of calcium, making it quite useful for vegans and the lactose-intolerant. Quinoa is easily digestible and is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, and iron.

Quinoa hearts are tasty, nutritious and easy to make
P O'Beollain

After harvesting, the seeds must be processed to remove a bitter natural coating of glucosides which contain saponin. Saponin is useful in that it makes quinoa seeds unpopular with birds! Most quinoa sold commercially in North America is processed in order to remove this bitter coating. Quinoa seeds are generally cooked in the same way as rice and are quite versatile. Raw quinoa may be germinated to activate its natural enzymes and boost its nutritional value. After first rinsing the grains to remove any remaining saponin, let the quinoa rest in clean water for 2-4 hours - this is enough to make it sprout, multiply its vitamin content, and soften the seeds, making the quinoa perfectly suited for addition to salads and other cold dishes.

You can find raw quinoa at The Spice Rack at the 2nd Street Market year-round (and instructions for cooking the raw quinoa follow the recipe below). This time of year, quinoa patties are a great comfort food, and the uncooked mixture is easily shaped into hearts to amuse the guests at your dinner table on Valentine’s Day. This recipe is quite versatile, feel free to add finely chopped vegetables or pecans to the mixture before cooking. They are quite tasty hot or cold, with a little butter or some salsa on the side. The Spice Rack also has the butter and sea salt for this recipe, and Garber’s Farm (also at 2nd St Market) has the onions and eggs, and likely some garlic. At the west end of the market, Blue Jacket Dairy can set you up with the cheese, and Hydrogrowers has great olive oils. The author happened to be out of both chives and green onions when making these patties and they turned out to be quite delicious nonetheless.

Quinoa patties

  • 2 ½ - 3 cups cooked quinoa at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives or green onions
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or butter

Mix the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, any veggies or nuts you might be using, and the garlic. Add in the bread crumbs, stir, and then let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some moisture. The mixture should be such that you can easily shape it into inch-thick patties (and then into heart shapes!). If the mixture is too dry, add a little more water; if too moist to shape, add a few more bread crumbs.

Heat the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the patties. Cover the skillet and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the one side is browned (turn up the heat a little if they are not browned after ten minutes). Gently flip the over and brown them on the other side (another 8 to 10 minutes). The uncooked mixture will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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To cook raw quinoa: Rinse the quinoa (swish it in a bowl of water and pour it through a sieve or strainer) and then combine 2 cups of the rinsed uncooked quinoa with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. At this point the quinoa should be tender and you will see little quinoa sprout curlicues.

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