Quinoa has the ability to transport you around the world. But, probably the best vehicle for quinoa is any dish that has to do with Middle Eastern quisine. The sauces of this particular region’s foods are so deep and intensely flavored, quinoa is a perfect compliment to stand up to this rich flavor. It doesn’t break down like rice or a pasta would.
Adding quinoa to your Middle Eastern cravings not only adds nutritional value, it also increases the heartiness of your meal. Let’s take a look at three Middle Eastern dishes you may be familiar with, and how they do well to benefit from the addition of quinoa.
This dish is a staple of the Middle Eastern culture. One reason is because of its low cost to produce. Adding a couple cups of quinoa to the mix only makes it more healthy and even more frugal. Not only do lentils have a good deal of protein, but quinoa adds almost three times more protein than the lentils do. That little bowl of lentil soup with quinoa added is a powerhouse of protein!
If you’ve enjoyed the taste of lentil soup, you know that there is still one drawback – the color. When lentils are cooked down with other vegetables, everything tends to take on the same dingy brown color. This is where red and black quinoa can really make a difference in presentation because they hold their color quite well. Food has to be visually appealing first. By adding colorful quinoa to your soup, your eyes can’t wait for your hands to grab a spoon and dig right in.
Generally made with bulgar wheat, this dish can cause many who are eating gluten free to avoid the dish entirely. However, for those who love this Middle Eastern food, you can make a slight variation by adding quinoa instead of the bulgar wheat and still enjoy your favorite dish. Toast the quinoa to deepen the flavor, cook your quinoa as directed on the package. Then add the spices and vegetables.
With many foods, the general consensus is that the longer you let it sit before serving, the better it will become. That is another reason why quinoa may be a better choice than using bulgar wheat. Because bulgar wheat can get a little soggy as it sits, many people actually learn to prefer the quinoa version of tabbouleh because it keeps a firmer, crispier texture.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Even though this is a dish that, when made right can be a real delight, the traditional filling lacks a complete nutritional profile. Quinoa adds a real super-boost of protein along with many much needed vitamins and minerals. If you substitute quinoa for the rice, you will also get a slightly nuttier taste and a bit of crunch. The grape leaves will also be easier to roll because the quinoa is very easy to manage, resulting in a more dense roll. When you cut through a quinoa stuffed grape leaf, you will immediately be impressed with how well they stand up instead of falling apart. Making them more appealing. You’ll also add a nice, deep rich color, especially when you choose the red or black quinoa varieties.
Quinoa is a great addition to Middle Eastern dishes. Not only does quinoa add nutritional value, but it also stands up to a longer cook time, meaning it doesn’t fall apart, break down, or get mushy. This gives a nice texture as well as an improved visual presence. Next time you are craving Middle Eastern food, try substituting quinoa for all or part of the starch in the recipe. You’ll love the unique texture and flavor.
Never worry about what's for dinner again. I've got you covered with the meal plans in the Once a Week Cooking Club. Cook once, eat all week.
Please be aware that some links used are to affiliates. They are almost always to products I use and love.