I was amazed at the amount of emails and comments I recieved after my post on forbidden rice. People really want recipies on more interesting and flavorful ways to prepare grains! Quinoa with Basil Pesto and Fresh Cheese is an incredibly flavorful and healthy side dish. You can also add vegetables or protein to create a wonderful main course. I love how the cheese gives the quinoa some creaminess and the rich pesto imparts tons of flavor. Although considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and Swiss chard. It is a protein-rich seed that becomes fluffy and nutty when cooked.
Quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. This is a fabulous food that should be a staple for vegans, vegetarians and those with Celiac Disease* or gluten sensitivities. It is a very good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. It is especially high in the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is incredibly beneficial to those with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis (heart disease).
Prepare the pesto and the cheese. When I made the dish this time, I substituted walnuts for the pine nuts in the pesto, and it created a really nice texture when combined with the quinoa.
Thoroughly wash the quinoa seeds in cold water by gently rubbing the seeds together with your hands. Rinse and repeat twice.
Add the rinsed qunioa and water/broth to a saucepan. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cooking time takes 15-20 minutes. When the quinoa is complete, you will notice that the grains have become fluffy and lighter and the white germ has partially detached itself. Fluff the quinoa and gently fold in the pesto and the cheese. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and sprinkle on optional toppings.
*Most people with Celiac Disease are able to eat quinoa, but if you have Celiac's and have never eaten quinoa, I recommend trying a little bit to see how your system responds.