Quinoa Basics (What is it-how to cook)

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Quinoa Basics:

It took a few months after I purchased my first few cups of Quinoa to actually get the guts up to cook it and explore using it in recipes. I actually did not know how to even say the word at first. Some clients actually trained me to say Quinoa correctly. It’s pronounced Keen-wah.

4 – 6 Servings: 2 quart pot with tight fitting lid

Ingredients for cooking Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cooking Quinoa Directions:

  1. Soak the quinoa first for 15 min – 1/2 hour in its cooking pot. Soaking loosens up the outer coating of saponin, which can give a bitter taste if not removed. Those tiny flaky bits in the rinse water are the saponin.
  2. If you don’t have time for long soaking, use hot water and soak for five minutes, then give an extra rinse or two.
  3. Stir the quinoa with your hand, and carefully pour off the rinse water. A Sieve makes the process more effective.
  4. Put the quinoa back in the pot, add more water, and rinse again two or three more times, until the rinse water is pretty clear draining each time in the sieve.
  5. Place quinoa in the pot, add the water & salt.

Bring to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and turn the heat down to simmer. A tight fitting lid is essential for even cooking.

  1. Cook for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to sit five minutes with lid on.
  3. Fluff gently with a fork and serve.

At our house we mix a half cup of cooked Quinoa with ½ cup chicken soup broth then poach a couple eggs in this mixture for 3 1/2 minutes. Makes a great dinner. And because Quinoa is higher in protein, the addition of a few nuts and vegetables make it a satisfying meal.

Quinoa Basics (What is it-how to cook) 1

Quinoa, pronounced kĭ-nōə or kēnwä is a high protein grain (12-18%) which comes from the annual plant Chenopodium quinoa native to high altitudes of South America  such as the Andes and Peru. It may have been domesticated as early as 6000 BC. Quinoa is cultivated for its edible white or red seeds and used as a food staple. It can be boiled, soaked or ground to make flakes or flour and can be found in many products at your local health food store. The leaves are sometimes boiled and used as spinach. Quinoa was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain.”

Quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. It is higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains. Because of this high oil content, Quinoa should be stored in the fridge or freezer to avoid becoming rancid. Quinoa is a rich source of iron, vitamin B1 and a good source of protein. It also contains calcium, vitamin B2, and niacin.

Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored or red quinoa cooks like rice but takes half the time of regular rice. It expands to four times its original volume making a kind of gruel called carapulque. Quinoa’s flavor is delicate, a bit crunchy, almost bland, and has been compared to that of couscous.

Quinoa can be used as a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings.

In general though, one part quinoa is brought to boil with two cups water and simmered on low for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl. I thought it was a round worm at first but it isn’t.

Quinoa grain has also been used for poultry and livestock feed and can be fermented to make an alcoholic beverage called chicha. In the Inca Empire, where only the potato was more widely grown, quinoa is said to have been sacred; the year’s first furrows were opened ceremoniously with a gold implement. Attempts to establish the crop outside its native habitat have been unsuccessful.

Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness benefits man because the flavor of saponin is not popular with birds so the plant needs minimal protection from critters that would normally eat grains like this.

The saponins in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic acid in the leaves of the Chenopodium family so quinoa is not the best grain for people with gout issues. It is great for vegetarians though and it is also gluten-free so is safe for people with celiac disease. Quinoa is a neutral food for all blood types so is safe to eat for everyone.

This is Quinoa in a field. It looks a bit taller than our Chenopodium species around here–we call it Lamb’s-quarters here in the United States. Quinoa grows up to 3 ½ feet tall.

Picture reference for Quinoa basics: https://agreatchef.com/images/06/quinoa.jpg

Helpful Links and References for Quinoa basics: