Chow Bella

Quinoa Cabbage Rolls

Quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah) is an ancient seed native to the Andes mountain regions of Peru and Bolivia. Historically, Quinoa was cultivated in terraced fields by the Inca's who treasured their "mother grain" for sustenance as well as its healing and mystical properties. 

Quinoa was used by warriors to enhance endurance while traveling vast distances. In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors destroyed the crop fields and outlawed the ritual planting and harvest of quinoa, disrupting not only a food source and important provider of protein, but the spiritual rituals surrounding quinoa's growth cycle. The Spanish replaced the crop with corn and potatoes. The ancient grain became an obscure "native Indian food" in South America.

The founding members of Ancient Harvest Quinoa Corporation are credited with bringing the seed back from obscurity into our North America diet. Quinoa found in groceries today is mostly imported from South America. There are crops being grown in Canada and Colorado. Quinoa is valued for its nutrition profile. Its a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids) rich in vitamins and minerals.

how to cook and quinoa cabbage rolls recipe after the jump

Preparing quinoa is as easy as preparing rice or couscous. The seed is a coated with saponins, bitter resin believed to protect the seed from insects and birds. Rinse and drain quinoa in a strainer to remove any traces of saponins and bitterness before cooking. For a nuttier flavor, dry toast the quinoa in a pan before adding liquid to cook.

To prepare quinoa, bring 1-cup quinoa plus 2-cups liquid (water or stock) to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and continue to cook over low heat 15-20 minutes. The cooked quinoa releases its germ marking it with a small, translucent spiral. When the spirals are visible the quinoa is done. The texture of the cooked seed is slightly chewy with a mild nutty flavor. Quinoa can be easily used in place of rice or other grains in salads, soups, sides and entrees.

Quinoa Cabbage Rolls
1 red or green cabbage, cored and par boiled
1 cup red or white Quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn or cut into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 medium zucchini, small dice
4 oz crumbled feta-optional
¼ cup sliced almonds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon red wine
1 and 1/2 teaspoon honey

1. Separate par boiled cabbage leaves
2. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add rinsed quinoa and stir while toasting for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low and cook 15-20 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
3. Heat a large sauté pan, add the olive oil, when oil is hot, not smoking, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes while stirring. Add the red pepper and zucchini and cook until vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and almonds. Add crumbled feta if using. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
4. Stir the vegetable mixture into the cooked quinoa. Wipe out the sauté pan and use to prepare the sauce.
5. Place a cabbage leaf on a clean work surface. Depending on the size of the leaf, add 2-4 heaping Tablespoons of quinoa mixture to the middle. Roll the sides of the leaf toward the middle. Next, beginning from the bottom, roll the leaf up over the filing and continue to roll to form a packet. If necessary, use a toothpick to hold the leaf together. Repeat until all filling has been used. Cut any un-stuffed cabbage leaves into strips and add to the pan to cook with the rolled packets.
6. Pour the diced tomatoes, honey and red wine in the sauté pan, heat sauce over medium heat. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook sauce, covered over low heat 15 minutes. Add the rolled cabbage packets, seam side down, to the pan. Cover and simmer on low heat 15- 20 minutes.
7. Place cabbage rolls on a plate and spoon sauce over the top.

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