Eat - June 28, 2018

5 Ways To Perfect Quinoa

Quinoa is often referred to as an ancient grain due to playing a vital part of the Andean diet. While its most common use is as a grain replacement, quinoa is, in fact, the seed of a green leafy plant called Chenopodium. As a member of the goosefoot family, quinoa is a relative to spinach, chard and beets. Who could have guessed that?

Quinoa is a complete protein source that packs all nine essential amino acids, making it highly favored by vegans and vegetarians. It’s gluten-free, high in iron, high in magnesium and also rich in soluble fiber.

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups filtered water or liquid of your choice

In my opinion, quinoa is one of those dishes that should always be in your fridge. A large batch made on Sunday will go strong all week long. Top it with beans, use it to make a vegan burger or as the base for breakfast bowls. You can also add it to salads for extra texture and substance.

You can cook your quinoa in water, stock or milk. Add spices like turmeric or saffron; you can even add chopped veggies when cooking a batch. I prefer to have a “plain Jane’’ version readily available since there are so many ways to use quinoa. I make this basic recipe and flavor as necessary depending on whether the dish is savory or sweet.

Quinoa is relatively easy to make, but it’s also one of those dishes you can easily mess up.  So here are the steps & some tips to perfect this staple.


Step 1:

Measure your quinoa and pour it into a fine mesh strainer.

TIP: Measure. Measure. Measure again: Quinoa, like rice, is one of those “so easy to make” dishes that can go completely wrong. Precision is key. Measure your uncooked quinoa in a dry measuring cup.

Step 2:

Rinse the quinoa under cold water.

TIP: An extra rinse won’t hurt. Quinoa is bitter due to natural insecticides called saponins. Store-bought quinoa is said to be pre-rinsed, but an extra wash is a safe bet. Wash by gently rubbing the seeds between your fingers under cold running water. Rinsing helps to get rid of the coating that some say makes quinoa taste soapy. Using a fine mesh strainer allows more water to drain out.

Step 3:

Toast the quinoa. Place the wet quinoa into a saucepan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to move it around constantly. The quinoa will dry and its color will turn to a toasted golden brown.

TIP: Get it nice & toasty. Take the extra 5 minutes to toast your quinoa. It won’t take long but will help bring out that beloved nutty flavor.

Step 4:

Add your liquid and bring to a boil over medium heat.

TIP: Don’t forget to use a liquid measuring cup when measuring the water, stock or milk. Place the cup on a table then squat down so that you can check your liquid line at eye level.

Step 5:

Reduce heat to low and let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes.

TIP: Set your clock; time moves faster than we think when cooking. After the water has come to a boil, the quinoa will only need about 15 minutes on a (very low) flame. So set a timer because even 5 minutes will change the outcome drastically. Look for the little “ring” that sprouts from the seed to be sure your quinoa is ready.

Step 6:

Remove the saucepan from the hot stove and cover. Let the quinoa steam and rest for 10 minutes, untouched, and then fluff the quinoa with a fork. Serve or save.

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Photography - Erica Allen
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