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Grainfully Employed

by Lorna Sass

A whole grain is one that has the protective bran layer and the oil- and mineral-rich germ intact.

By now, anyone who keeps up with the news has read about the health benefits of whole grains. Because a diet including whole grains has been shown to lower the risk of heart attacks and numerous type of cancer, many companies have jumped on the bandwagon and come out with whole grain cereals, pastas, and pretzels.

While consuming these products is a step towards including more whole grains in your diet, some of them are no more than junk foods that contain whole grains.  It’s important to read the labels closely and make sure that a whole grain is the first ingredients and that the word “whole” appears before every mention of a grain.

Many people lean towards such convenience products because they believe that cooking whole-grain dishes from scratch is complicated and time-consuming.  If you are one of these people, be prepared to change your mind by trying the simple recipe below.

Quinoa Corn Chowder

Quinoa is a quick-cooking grain from the highland Andes that is considered a complete protein because it has all of the essential amino acids.  Quinoa has an easy-go-down lightness and versatility that is reminiscent of couscous.

Until recently, quinoa required thorough rinsing to remove a naturally occurring, soapy-tasting coating called saponin. Nowadays, virtually all quinoa distributed in the U.S. has been thoroughly cleaned and requires no more than a quick rinse.

This thick soup is hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian entrée, accompanied by a tossed salad and perhaps a bowl of popcorn--a standard soup garnish used by Ecuadorians that delights children of all ages.

Serves 3 to 4

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leek or onion
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb. red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed by swishing in a bowl and drained
4 cups fresh or frozen (defrosted) corn kernels
1 1/4 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped if large
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
1 to 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Popcorn for garnish, plus more for passing at the table

1. In a heavy soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat.  Add the leek and oregano.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks begin to wilt, about 4 minutes.

2. Add 4 cups of water and the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the quinoa.  Boil uncovered over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process 3 cups of the corn kernels with 1 cup of water to create a coarse puree. 

4. After the quinoa has cooked for 10 minutes, stir in the corn puree and remaining corn kernels.  Adjust the salt and add lots of freshly ground black pepper.

5. Continue cooking until the quinoa is done (the grains should be translucent and have no opaque white dot in the center), about 2 to 3 minutes more.  Stir in the olives, cilantro, scallion greens and additional tablespoon of oil.

6. Add enough lime juice to sharpen the flavors.  Garnish with popcorn and pass additional popcorn in a bowl at the table.

Copyright, Lorna Sass, 2007


Lorna Sass is the author of WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY, which won a 2007 James Beard Foundation Award in the "healthy focus" category.   Her website is www.lornasass.com.  Sass is also the author of Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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