Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding with Passionfruit and Grapes
I have Chef Giancarla Bodoni of Monteverdi, Tuscany to thank for reviving my enthusiasm for quinoa. We were brainstorming recipe ideas for our cooking class at Sempre Sano when Giancarla came up with the idea for a creamy chia seed pudding made with cashew milk and chia seeds. And why not add quinoa to give it a satisfying chewy texture? We topped our quinoa chia seed puddings with a passionfruit puree and some impossibly ripe Tuscan grapes. They were a hit!
Do you need to rekindle your love for quinoa?
Don’t get me wrong — I love quinoa for its nutty flavor and delicate fluff. It’s a staple in the Brain Works Kitchen. All of my brain healthy cooking classes include a dish made with quinoa — as a grain salad, a fragrant pilaf, or a breakfast porridge. But my enthusiasm for quinoa hit its peak sometime in 2015 and has slowly declined since. Blame it on its ubiquitousness: Once quinoa was “discovered” as a superfood, and the only grain to possess all 8 amino acids, it was everywhere. And many quinoa dishes were just not very tasty. Or maybe all the research I did to write this article for Edible Magazine contributed to my quinoa fatigue. Didn’t we all get a little quinoa’d out?
Quinoa: an ancient superfood
I had fallen in love with quinoa while trekking in the highlands of Ecuador. The indigenous people of the Andes have considered it a sacred food since pre-Columbian times. A member of the goosefoot family (which includes spinach, chard, and lamb’s quarters) quinoa is a seed, but categorized as a “pseudograin.” It has all the same brain healthy benefits of the other whole (intact) grains, an important category of the 10 brain healthy food groups. Quinoa has plenty of fiber to fill you up and keep insulin levels from spiking (something we know is bad for the brain.)
Chia seeds = Omega-3 powerhouses
The chia seeds plump up as they soak in the cashew milk, giving the pudding a lovely tapioca-like consistency. Besides being chewy and delicious, chia seeds pack some serious nutrition. These tiny seeds are full of fiber, protein, and good-for-you fats. In fact, chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. And unlike flax, chia seeds don’t have to be ground up to access their nutrition.
The toppings for this recipe are easy to change up with the seasons: mangoes in the spring, blueberries in the summer, purple plums in the fall, and dried figs and pistachios in the winter. In Tuscany we used a combination of passionfruit puree and the most aromatic black grapes that were ripening in the fields. When I taught this recipe at Rancho La Puerta, my kitchen assistant Gina suggested using a mixture of red and white quinoa for a contrast in texture and an even prettier pudding.
Now I’m hooked on this super-easy pudding and I hope you like it too. I can’t wait to perfect the chocolate and almond version (coming soon.) Serving quinoa for dessert is a brilliant way to get out of a quinoa rut.