To the Incas, quinoa – high in protein and rich in amino acids – was a sacred crop, the mother of all grains.
For Edwina Gadsby, of Hayden, it’s a winning ingredient.
Gadsby is one of four semifinalist winners in Alter Eco’s recent Quinoa Recipe Contest, held in honor of the International Year of Quinoa this year.
Winners were selected by Alter Eco staff and authors Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, who wrote “Quinoa Revolution” and “Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood.”
Alter Eco, a specialty food brand, aims to support small producers of exotic, sustainable and healthy foods – like pearl-shaped, nutty, nutritious and versatile quinoa.
The ancient seed hails from the Andean regions of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. It’s related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds, and has been cultivated for some 3,000 to 4,000 years.
Gadsby, 57, a retired accountant and avid cook, started experimenting with quinoa a couple of years ago.
“I like the health benefit of it,” she said. “But I really like the flavor of quinoa. It’s kind of a neutral base that you can use other ethnic flavors to elevate.”
Thai flavors are among her favorite.
“I’ve been making a lot of quinoa salads and sides, and I just had some fresh Dungeness crab and tried to come up with something a little different and refreshing,” she said. “I thought the nutty goodness of the quinoa went well with the crab and Thai flavors.”
Alter Eco sells four kinds of quinoa on its website at www.alterecofoods.com: Royal Black, Royal Rainbow, Royal Red and Royal Pearl. Prices range from $5.79 for a 1-pound pouch of Royal Pearl to $9.99 for 14 ounces of Royal Black.
The prize for Gadsby’s Thai Quinoa and Crab Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette: a year’s supply of Alter Eco’s quinoa, which was a required ingredient for contest entries.
Her first shipment arrived Sept. 18. It contained one pouch of each variety.
Here’s her prize-winning recipe:
Thai Quinoa and Crab Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette
2 cups Alter Eco Royal Pearl Quinoa
3 cups water
12 ounces fresh-cooked Dungeness crab, or other sustainable variety of crab meat or shellfish, coarsely chopped
1 Fuji apple, peeled, cored and julienned
1 small red bell pepper, peeled and julienned
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 of a small cucumber, peeled and julienned
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup yuzu juice (or 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice)
2 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small red serrano or jalapeño, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/3 cup canola oil
For salad: Place quinoa in a fine strainer and rinse. In a saucepan, add the quinoa and toast until a nutty aroma is achieved, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and simmer until water is fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. The quinoa is ready when grains have become transparent and the spirallike germ has separated.
Combine quinoa, crab or other seafood, apple, red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, green onions and cilantro in large bowl.
For vinaigrette: Whisk together yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) juice, tamari, honey, shallot, jalapeño, garlic, ginger and oil. Pour enough vinaigrette over quinoa mixture to moisten, tossing gently to combine.
Serve salad at room temperature or chilled.