December 27, 2012
(+++) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A QUINOA YEAR
Quinoa Revolution: Over 150 Healthy, Great-Tasting Recipes Under 500 Calories. By Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming. Pintail. $29.95.
Back in 1957, in an initial thaw of East-West relations after the death of Joseph Stalin, 67 countries participated in what was called the International Geophysical Year, a scientific effort distinguished in part by the fact that the “year” lasted 18 months. The IGY was taken seriously in some circles and not so seriously in others: cartoonist Walt Kelly, for example, created a book called G.O. Fizzicle Pogo to celebrate and gently mock the whole thing. Since then there have been “years” of all sorts, some more notable (and more believable) than others. And now, for 2013, we have a dietary one dedicated to a trendy grain: the International Year of Quinoa. To mark this momentous occasion, there are sure to be many books about the wonders of quinoa and its important-to-its-advocates dietary role – books such as Quinoa Revolution.
Like the 18-month International Geophysical Year, the International Year of Quinoa has a few oddities and misconceptions, one notable one being that quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa or sometimes kee-NO-wah) is not a grain at all – it is a seed, in much the same way that wild rice is not rice but a type of grass. This sort of distinction is not particularly meaningful to many cooks and everyday users – after all, most people still treat tomatoes, which are fruits, as vegetables. But the people most likely to enjoy Quinoa Revolution, a handsome oversize paperback running to more than 200 pages, will likely consider points like this important. Certainly authors Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, who previously produced Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, care about all things quinoa, including its history, provenance, dietary value, adaptability and more. There is considerable introductory material here, including a discussion of fitting quinoa into a more-healthful overall lifestyle; and then there is a chapter featuring the basics of quinoa, in which Green and Hemming talk about making quinoa flour, cooking quinoa in liquids, and more. The meat of the book – well, not meat, but its heart – is in five chapters with “Revolutionize” titles, for breakfast; salads, sides and snacks; soups and stews; meals; and desserts (yes, desserts). These are the places where trendiness creeps in, and that will be fine for cooks who want to be “in” with a particular fad (or a particular celebratory year). In the breakfast section alone, for example, are “Apricot Matcha Breakfast Porridge” (“matcha” being a specific type of Japanese green tea) and “Peanut Butter & Tomato Sprout Toast” (with quinoa sprouts, vine-ripened tomatoes and sprouted whole-grain or gluten-free bread). However, there are also some recipes that do not yell “trendy,” such as Maple Pecan Granola and Creamy Chocolate Breakfast Cereal.
In general, Quinoa Revolution does a good job of balancing the exotic or outré with the more-ordinary (within the quinoa universe, that is). There are plenty of meatless recipes, but also plenty containing meat, from Traditional Breakfast Sausage Rounds to Simple Chicken Pot Pie Stew and Barbecue Beef Lettuce Wraps. And some of the meatless choices are particularly clever, such as “The Better Burger,” which includes toasted pecans, mushrooms, an egg and other ingredients in addition to quinoa. In fact, the most impressive thing about Quinoa Revolution is that it shows just how versatile quinoa is – which should not really be a surprise (after all, rice, pasta, wild rice and other ingredients are highly versatile), but comes across as one because there is still a sense of the exotic about quinoa. The chapter on desserts has some particularly intriguing entries, from the unusual (“Black Forest Goat Cheese Brownies”) to the straightforward (“Almond Cinnamon Cookies”). Muffins, included with desserts for some reason, are also interesting, whether “Chai Chocolate Chip” or “Sweet Potato Date.” There is even a good recipe for pie crust based on quinoa flour. Quinoa is not really a miracle food, for all the intensity its advocates bring to it, and whether it deserves an “International Year” is certainly debatable. But cooks who already like quinoa will find a great deal to enjoy in Quinoa Revolution, and ones who have not yet tried this grain…err, seed…will find plenty of interesting alternatives to traditional recipe approaches in the recommendations of Green and Hemming.