Quinoa has become one of the trendiest super-foods of the new millennium. Pronounced KEEN-wah, quinoa isn’t actually a grain, but the seed of a plant related to leafy greens like beets and chard. Teeny and round, similar in size to millet, quinoa is gluten-free with a light, fluffy texture and mild flavor, making it infinitely versatile in the kitchen. Quinoa contains a complete set of amino acids, making it a complete protein on its own. (In fact, the World Health Organization claims that quinoa contains a better protein balance than any grain, being at least equal to milk in terms of protein quality.) Here’s how to cook it.
Quinoa most often comes in a shade of off-white (very similar to sesame seeds), but you can sometimes find red or black quinoa, much like you can get red and black rice. All varieties are similar in flavor and nutritional content. Once cooked, quinoa can be used in place of rice or other grains as a side dish, as a base for a salad, as an addition to soup, or even as a breakfast cereal — serve it warm, with milk and brown sugar, as you would serve oatmeal.
Before you cook quinoa, it must be rinsed to get rid of its bitter saponin coating — a natural insect repellent that’s not harmful, but affects the taste. The easiest way to do this is to put your quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and run it under water, rubbing it and swishing it around with your fingers as you do.
How to Cook Quinoa
Rinse your quinoa (as much as you want to cook) in a fine sieve. Dump into a large pot of boiling water, and cook as if you were cooking pasta, for 12-15 minutes. The quinoa should be just tender and the germ, which runs around the midriff of each seed, will separate, making it look like a curly Q.
Drain the quinoa the same fine sieve you rinsed it in and dump the quinoa back into the pot while it’s still hot. Cover with a tea towel, then the lid and leave it to steam for 5 minutes, finishing the cooking process and creating fluffy quinoa.