One of my favorite snacks is sprouted almonds. I start by soaking a cup of raw almonds in a Mason jar of water. After about two hours, I’ll change the water, then let them soak overnight. By morning, the sprouting has begun.
When most people think of sprouts, they think of pale green, leggy alfalfa sprouts you get on a sandwich or bean sprouts in a bowl of pho. But you don’t have to wait for visible growth to appear in order to enjoy the many benefits of sprouting.
My soaked, germinated almonds are buttery soft, and the skins easily slip off, which makes for a cleaner, less bitter mouthful. They taste fuller than ungerminated almonds, with a distinct coconut flavor. Over the next day or so, I keep changing the water. After a few days, if they last long enough, I can see the beginnings of change as they prepare to grow into almond trees.
Almonds are just one household food you can sprout, which unlocks many flavor and nutritional benefits. In addition to nuts, which must be raw, unroasted and non-irradiated — alive, as it were — one can sprout lentils and other legumes, wheat and other grains and grain-like seeds such as quinoa.
Quinoa has more protein than any cereal or grain and contains all nine amino acids. Sprouting makes these nutrients more available by activating enzymes in the seeds that break down phytic acid, which binds to minerals and other nutrients, making them unavailable to your body. Sprouting also shortens its cooking time and reduces its bitterness by washing away molecules called saponins found in its seed coat.
Quinoa begins to sprout in about 24 hours. The difference between sprouted and unsprouted quinoa is like that between raw and soaked almonds. The sprouted version tastes cleaner, with sharper flavors.
I have a recipe for quinoa-potato salad that I can’t stop eating. I included potatoes in my quinoa recipe as both come from the Andes and added parsley, onions, garlic and lemon because they’re wintertime staples. It’s also good with bacon bits or cheese if you wish to add them. You can serve it warm or cold — this time of year, I prefer warm.
One cup dry quinoa makes two cups sprouted.
Place quinoa in a large bowl. Cover with water by at least an inch and soak for an hour.
Rinse, drain and transfer to a Mason jar. Cap the jar with a sprouting lid or cheesecloth and a rubber band.
Rinse quinoa every few hours, making sure to drain off all water.
Sprouting will occur in 24 hours, but you can continue to sprout for two days, if desired, for a softer consistency. The sprout itself will emerge after about 36 hours, curling and waving around the little seed, resembling a sperm doing yoga.
You can store sprouted quinoa in the fridge for about a week.
To cook, put equal quantities sprouted quinoa and water in a pot with a lid and cook on high for five minutes, then turn the heat to low until the water is all gone, about 10 minutes.
Start this recipe the day before by sprouting 1 cup of quinoa and, if possible, 1/2 cup of raw almonds — or more, if you snack like I do.
2 cups sprouted quinoa
2 large potatoes (about a pound), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1/4 onion (about 4 ounces), minced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 bunch parsley, leafy side chopped and stem side minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional: 1/2 cup germinated almonds, skins slipped off and slid in half
Set the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the potatoes and carrots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Put them on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Stir once, about halfway through.
Add the quinoa to a pot with 2 cups of water. Cover and cook for five minutes on high, then turn down to low for another five minutes. Let it sit with the lid on for 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, quinoa, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes. Mix. Season again. Let it sit for an hour or more, then serve.
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