Keen on Quinoa

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: January 2014
Group Mid-Level
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Ring in the new year with a delicious dose of this South American "superfood."

True Food Kitchen
Two Valley locations,

If "eat healthier" tops your list of New Year's resolutions, you'd do well to get acquainted with quinoa, the seed of a spinach-like South American plant that packs a whopping punch of nutrition for its pinhead size. Considered a "complete protein" for its full boat of essential amino acids, nutty-flavored quinoa isn't just good for your health – it tastes fantastic. Exhibit A: the "inside- out" quinoa burger at True Food Kitchen. Creating the dish was something of a riddle for Executive Chef Michael Stebner. Too many carbs are a True Foods no-no, and with a carb-laden patty (quinoa needs filler to hold it together), things could get out of control pretty quickly. Thinking outside the box, Stebner crafted the bun itself out of quinoa. Stebner loves the flavors of gyros, so the red quinoa "bun" tastes of cumin, mint and lemon, filled with a smear of hummus, sliced avocado, tomato, tzatziki-dressed cucumbers and red onion, and crumbled feta. Here's to your health.


Otro Café
6035 N. Seventh St., Phoenix

After maize, quinoa was the second most important food crop to the Inca Empire. When Chef Doug Robson settled on a quinoa salad for Otro, it seemed natural to him to name it "Inca." Using a blend of white, red and black quinoa for visual and textural contrast, Robson tosses the fluffy, grain-like seeds with diced tomatoes, corn, dried cranberries, red onion and avocado. For crunch, he adds toasted pepitas and Mexican yulu seeds. Herbal notes come from mint leaves, cilantro, basil and peppery arugula, and tang comes from fresh-squeezed lime juice. Call this salad healthy if you must. We call it delicious.


s.e.e.d. Café
3802 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix

You don't have to attend yoga or spin classes to eat at this tiny cafe tucked inside the Madison Improvement Club, but it does cater to fitness-minded patrons. Quinoa makes two appearances on the dinner menu. "Wok This Way" is a colorful stir-fry of white quinoa with cubes of firm tofu, corn, shredded carrots, cilantro, diced red and green bell pepper, and a modest splash of soy. "Beanie No Weanie" (seriously, s.e.e.d.?) is a small but filling bowl of quinoa chili, with cumin, black beans, avocado and cheddar. Silly names aside, both dishes fill the bill.