Nutty Quinoa Adds Texture And Protein

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - October 26, 2011
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Quinoa salad with pan-roasted salmon

Chef Jason Kiyota’s life has come full circle. About 15 years ago, he started out washing dishes at the Food Company when it was in Hawaii Kai, and his culinary interests were sparked. Today he is back at The Food Company in Kailua as a chef, and he and owner Brenda Tanaka have kicked it up a notch.

Kiyota was born and raised in Honolulu, and after attending the culinary arts program at Kapiolani Community College, he was taken under the wing of his friend and mentor Chef Alfredo Cabacungan.

He traveled all over the world, including Bolivia, Thailand, Miami and Napa, searching out great wines and cuisine.

He worked at the Sheraton Waikiki for 10 years, and when Tanaka approached him with the idea to expand The Food Company, he was ready.

The atmosphere is that of a country store, with the wonderful aromas of Kiyota’s culinary creations wafting through it. The fresh produce, salads, sandwiches and wraps for sale in the cold section plus dips, Waialua sodas, freshbaked cookies, puddings, pies and pastries are enough to tempt any palate. Oh, there also are specialty cupcakes that are irresistible. The blackboard at the front lists specials of the day, and before dinner the smoked ahi dip with pita crackers will prepare your taste buds for the mouthwatering main courses prepared to order.

The Food Company owner Brenda Tanaka and chef Jason Kiyota with their signature quinoa dishes. Nathalie Walker photos .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Kiyota and Tanaka use local products as much as they can and buy from small local farmers. Kiyota’s cooking philosophy is not much fusion, but simple pure ingredients for winefriendly dishes. He also does private parties with wine pairings. For more information, go to

When he has any spare time, Kiyota enjoys outdoor sports, loves going fishing and trying new restaurants.

This delicious salad is served at The Food Company, and Kiyota was kind enough to let me share it with MidWeek readers.

Quinoa, (pronounced keen-wah), when cooked, has a fluffy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. It contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein source unusual for plant foods. It is a good source of phosphorus, fiber, magnesium and iron. It is also glutenfree and easy to digest.

Quinoa salad


* 2 cups organic quinoa
* 6 cups water
* 1 tablespoon curry powder
* 1 teaspoon agave syrup
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup currants
* 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley @
* 2 tablespoons pureed or finely chopped sundried tomato
* 1/4 cup small diced zucchini
* 1/4 cup small diced yellow crookneck squash
* 1/4 cup small diced red bell pepper, optional
* salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Combine quinoa, water and curry powder. Bring to a boil on high heat; turn down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes or until you can see tails forming from each seed. Drain in colander and cool with running water. Let dry in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Transfer to a mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Makes six to eight servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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