Can You Quinoa (/ˈkiːnwɑː)?
Ask and you will receive. Recently I have had numerous folks ask me how I prepare and cook quinoa. Below is a description of what quinoa is, and a tutorial on how I prepare it. Enjoy!
Quinoa is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.
The nutrient composition is very good compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
After harvest, the seeds need to be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. Quinoa seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Quinoa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited.
Most people with whom I have spoken, simply cook the quinoa like they would cook rice, adding water and simmering it on the stove. I have found, however, that pan roasting the seeds before cooking in water adds a slightly nutty flavor that I prefer. Because it does add time to preparation, I have begun pre-roasting about a quart at a time. Then when I am ready to use it, I can simply add water and simmer.
First rinse the seeds lightly to remove any remaining saponins, or bitter taste. Then I dump the rinsed seeds into a heavy skillet. Make sure your skillet is dry, no oil added. I like to use my cast iron skillet, but any heavy skillet will do.
Stir the seeds continually over medium low heat. They will dry out and gradually begin to roast. As you continue to stir the seeds, some will pop slightly, and they will turn a golden color and smell warm and nutty.
When they are completely dry, have turned a golden brown color, and have taken on a light nutty, roasted aroma, remove the seeds from heat and transfer to a bowl until cooled completely. Stir them occasionally to circulate air and aid in the cooling process.
Once they are completely cooled, I store in a sterile quart jar until I am ready to cook them. When cooking, be sure you don’t add too much water or they can become mushy. Add just enough to cover and watch them closely. You can always add a bit more liquid as they cook. I like them still firm enough to retain their shape without sticking together.
The jar on the right is after roasting. You can see the difference in the color.
I often cook rice the same way, pan roasting it before I cook it in water. I like the consistency and flavor pan roasting gives it.
If you are transferring the quinoa from pan roasting directly into hot water to cook, be careful. The water will bubble up and can overflow. Leave plenty of room above the water level to avoid overflow.
I like to cook about a cup of quinoa a week and store it in the fridge. I use a spoonful with 1/4 cup fruit in my yogurt or oatmeal, or sprinkle a spoonful over my salad. Anything to which I want to add a little fiber, flavor, texture and protein.
So there you have it, easy peasy, healthy and yummy quinoa.