Subscribe for 33¢ / day

When your summer guests arrive and announce they are gluten-free, don’t panic. There are loads of options that are both easy and delicious.

I’m sure you’ve heard of quinoa (keen-wah) and more than likely enjoyed it as a salad or side dish. The versatility of this seed — not a grain — makes for a wonderful accompaniment to any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for muscle development and immune strength.

Some types of wheat come close to matching quinoa’s protein content, but grains such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Those grains also require pairing of legumes to become a “complete protein” as suggested for your RDA (recommended daily allowance).

Quinoa is 12 to 18 percent protein and four ounces a day, about 1/2-cup, will provide a child’s protein needs for one day. Quinoa is about 6 percent fat and it boasts a low sodium content and also provides valuable fiber.

Before cooking, the seeds must be rinsed to remove their bitter resin-like coating, which is called saponin. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, but it is best to rinse again at home before use to remove any of the powdery residue that may remain on the seeds. The presence of saponin is obvious by the production of soapy- looking “suds” when the seeds are swished in water. Placing quinoa in a strainer and rinsing thoroughly with water easily washes the saponin from the seeds.

Cooked quinoa is excellent in casseroles and soups, stews, in stir-fries, or cold in salads. A bonus is the cooking time: just 15 minutes, as opposed to brown rice, which can take over a half an hour.

Uncooked seeds may be added to soups and stews as you would barley or rice and quinoa is often substituted for rice in rice dishes. Dry-roasting quinoa in a pan or in the oven before cooking will give a toasted flavor, and it can be cooked in fruit juice to add character to the flavor for use as a breakfast cereal or in desserts.

Cold salads consisting of quinoa and chopped vegetables or cooked beans make a quick, easy, and nutritious dish.

Quinoa “Tabbouleh”

Without a doubt, this is my most popular dish both on my website and when cooking for friends. It’s a nice alternative to a classic, and especially nice if you want to prepare something that is gluten-free.

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad usually made with bulgur (cracked wheat.) The quinoa makes it a little lighter with the same exotic flavors.

2 cups water

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 pinch sea salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tomatoes, diced (or small cherry toms)

Enjoy food? Get dining and recipe ideas sent to your inbox

1 cucumber, diced

1/2 bunch green onions, diced

2 carrots, grated

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish

1/2 cup feta, crumbled

Fresh salad greens

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, carrots, parsley, mint and feta. Stir in cooled quinoa. Serve on a bed of fresh greens. Garnish with mint.