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Not really a grain, but who cares? Getting to know quinoa

Not really a grain but who cares Getting to know quinoa
This July 20, 2015 photo shows whole grain quinoa in Concord, NH. A little quinoa here and there can improve almost any dish. AP Photo/Matthew Mead

Quinoa, the gluten-free ingredient that pretty much started the latest whole grain trend, actually is a seed grown in the Andes Mountains. But most people treat it as a grain.

Available in golden, red and black varieties, quinoa is slightly crunchy and highly versatile, good for everything from soups, salads and side dishes to vegetarian burgers. For perfect quinoa, combine 1 cup of quinoa with 1 3/4 cups water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and gently simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the grains sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

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STUFFING: For quinoa sausage stuffing, in a skillet over medium-high, cook 8 ounces of loose sausage meat with 1 medium chopped onion, 2 stalks chopped celery, and the chopped white portions of 2 leeks. Saute until everything is tender and browned. Stir in 2 cups of cooked quinoa and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook for 3 more minutes. Serve alongside a roast chicken or turkey dinner, or use as a stuffing for the bird.

SALAD: For Greek quinoa salad, in a large bowl combine 2 cups of cooked quinoa, 2 tablespoons capers, 1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives, 1/4 cup chopped cherry peppers (hot or sweet), 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, and a few good grinds of black pepper. Serve over a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil.

(Recipes from Alison Ladman)

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For more recipes and primers on how to cook various whole grains, click here. 

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