The Mother Grain of the Incas


By Chef Valerie Wilson

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) was the mother grain of the Incas. They considered it sacred and held ceremonies honoring quinoa. In South America, in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains, quinoa has been grown, harvested, and eaten since at least 3,000 B.C. Because of its hardiness, being able to survive at such high altitudes, quinoa is considered a strengthening food. It is one of the smallest whole grains and cooks quickly, which is ideal for summer salads. 

Quinoa is a complete protein and is high in calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa is high in quercetin and kaempferol, two flavonoids with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-depressant properties.

Tempeh is fermented soybeans. The soybeans are boiled and mixed with a starter culture to start the fermentation process. The texture of tempeh is chunky; it gives the illusion of meat in some recipes. It is 19.5% protein, and it is a complete protein. It contains all the essential amino acids and B12. Tempeh tastes especially good, sautéed in toasted sesame oil with a bit of tamari to season. It can also be crumbled and then molded into patties or loaves.

Cucumbers are a fantastic summertime food. Being 95% water, they are a cooling vegetable, ideal for keeping you cool on those hot summer days. Juicy and refreshing cucumbers have many great health benefits. They contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. High in Vitamin C, K, and several B Vitamins, they also contain anti-inflammatory properties. Cucumbers contain copper, potassium, manganese, and numerous antioxidants, such as beta-carotene.

Quinoa Tempeh Salad with Creamy Dressing 

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 (8oz.) package of tempeh (crumbled)

1 T. toasted sesame oil

1 T. tamari

½ tsp. paprika

2 scallions (sliced thin)

2 carrots (diced small)

1 cucumber (seeds removed and diced small)

½ cup walnuts (toasted and chopped)


1 ¾ up Vegenaise (dairy-free mayonnaise) 

2 tsp. Ume plum paste

Put the 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to the lowest possible temperature, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until all water has been absorbed. Let sit for 5 minutes after cooking, then put in a large mixing bowl to cool. Put the crumbled tempeh in a sauté pan and the toasted sesame oil and tamari. On medium heat, sauté the tempeh until browned. Once done, add the paprika and add to the bowl. Add to the bowl the scallions, carrots, cucumber, and walnuts. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and mix everything.

Refrigerate and serve cold.


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