Quinoa (pronounced keh-NO-ah or, sometimes, KEEN-wah) is a relative newcomer to the American pantry. The tiny, ancient Peruvian seed, which has a mild, nutty flavor, is related to leafy green vegetables and is often used like a grain. Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content.
Quinoa is very easy to cook. It’s important to rinse the seeds well, because they are naturally coated with a bitter substance that protects them against birds and other predators. Most packaged quinoa has already been cleaned, but it doesn’t hurt to soak and rinse it just in case. Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes, and it’s easy to tell when it’s done because the seeds display a little white thread that curls around them.
Basic Steamed Quinoa:
Many recipes for quinoa suggest cooking it like rice, in two parts water for one part quinoa. This works, but I find the grains are fluffier if I cook them in three parts water and drain the excess water once the quinoa is tender. The tiny seeds swell to about four times their original size, so 1 cup uncooked quinoa yields about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 servings.
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water, chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear.
2. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and translucent, and each grain displays a little thread. Drain and return to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.
Yield: about 4 cups, serving 6 to 8
Advance preparation: Cooked quinoa will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in a microwave or in the oven.