Rice is nice, couscous is cozy and potatoes and pasta are universally popular. But don't you occasionally sigh for something different? Well, sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more. An ancient South American staple called quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has been around in the West for a while now, and it's terrific. Forget the comforting fluffiness, delicate flavor and minimal cooking time - these little balls pack a mighty nutrition punch. Here's what Karen Railey, author of the e-book How to Improve Fading Memory and Thinking Skills with Nutrition, has to say: "The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, and is a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids [making it a complete protein]... and it is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains... about half a cup will provide a child's protein needs for one day... "The 6%-7% fat of quinoa is relatively high compared to other grains, but it boasts a low sodium content and provides valuable starch and fiber... The seeds are gluten-free, which makes this a flavorful alternative for those with gluten sensitivity." BEFORE COOKING quinoa it is important to rinse it under running water to get rid of a bitter resin-like coating called saponin. Here's my simple recipe, which makes a delightful complement to any main dish: Saute a cup of rinsed and well-drained quinoa in a little canola oil for a minute or two, then add a couple of tablespoons of dried onion and mushroom mix (available from herb and spice stores and intended for cooking with rice), one teaspoon of salt, and two cups of boiling water. Make sure it's bubbling, stir, cover and cook on very low heat for 15 minutes. Leave for 10 minutes before uncovering. TWO MORE quinoa recipes from Karen Railey: TOASTED QUINOA SALAD 3â„4 cup quinoa 1 cup diced carrots 1â„2 cup chopped red pepper 1â„4 cup chopped parsley 2 sliced green onions juice of 1 lemon 11â„2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce 2 cloves garlic, minced a pinch of cayenne pepper Rinse the quinoa and drain. Dry-toast briefly in a pot until a few grains begin to pop. Add 11â„2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cool. Mix the carrot, red pepper, parsley and onion in a large bowl. Add the cold quinoa and toss. Whisk together the lemon juice, tamari, garlic and cayenne. Pour over the salad and combine well. Chill until needed. WALNUT ROSEMARY QUINOA 1 Tbsp. sesame oil 1 small onion, chopped 11â„2 cups quinoa, rinsed in boiling water and drained 1 small red pepper, diced 3 cups water 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, or to taste 1 tsp. fresh rosemary or 1â„2 tsp. dried 1 cup frozen peas, thawed 1â„2 cup walnuts, chopped Preheat the oven to 180 . Heat the onion and quinoa over medium heat, stirring, for three minutes. Add the pepper and saute for two minutes more. Add the water, soy sauce and rosemary. Bring to a boil and cover; simmer for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, roast the walnuts for 5-10 minutes. Mix them, and the peas, into the quinoa. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. AN INVITATION to Wendy Elliman's for "candlelighting and a bit of supper" in Ramot on the third night of Hanukka turned out to be a fun evening for all, graced with a veritable feast. I particularly liked the soup, which I thought was a version of tomato. It wasn't. "It's Judith Landau's recipe," Wendy told me. As chance would have it, I met Judith the very next day. "You can have the recipe," she said, "but it's my sister-in-law Jackie's." RED PUMPKIN SOUP 2 kg. pumpkin, peeled and cubed 2 large onions a little canola oil 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 Tbsp. or more organic bouillon powder salt and black pepper to taste 260-gr. container of tomato puree (optional) fresh dill to garnish Saute the onion and garlic in the oil, add the pumpkin, sprinkle on the bouillon powder and barely cover with boiling water. Cook for 20 minutes, or until soft. Blend (using a blender or in the pot) together with the tomato puree and adjust the seasoning. Reheat before serving.