Quinoa With Zucchini, Pancetta & Tomatoes

I am unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) but had been seeing it quite a lot lately in the internet that I had to venture on my own too to find out about this seemingly healthy pseudocereal that's high in protein.  It is not available in the regular supermarkets so I found it in a gourmet shop with food from across the globe in the next town. My quinoa box traveled all the way from Bolivia. 

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago but was not domesticated until 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.  The Incas considered it sacred and in their tradition, it was the emperor who sowed the seeds of the season with a gold shovel.   When the Spanish arrived, they suppressed the cultivation of quinoa due to its association with non-Christian ceremonies.   In its place, wheat was grown.

They are the seeds of the Chenopodium or goosefoot plant. In their natural state, they are covered with saponin, a bitter & unpalatable coating.  When they are commercially packed, they are usually rinsed to send the saponin away but it is always better to give it a cursory rewashing at home before cooking. 

Still in the introductory stage, I opted for a safe & dependable alternative to cook it. You never fail making a dish flavorful with pancetta affumicata (smoked pancetta), zucchini and tomatoes.  Aside from that, I want to lure my kids into eating it so these ingredients are a safe bet. 

Quinoa With Zucchini, Pancetta & Tomatoes

Serves 4
  • 120 g. quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 medium zucchini, cubed
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 110 g. pancetta affumicata (smoked pancetta)
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water 
  1. In a pot, boil about 300 ml. water for cooking the quinoa.  Add salt.  Pour quinoa in boiling water and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the seeds open.  Drain.  Set aside. 
  2. In a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, over medium heat, sautè the zucchini.  Cook until the zucchini starts to sizzle and brown.  Stir once in a while to avoid sticking to the pan & burning.
  3. Add the pancetta.  Cook until they start to look toasted. 
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.   Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Add cooked quinoa.  Mix well.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.