Do you remember when quinoa was just starting to gain popularity? There was a handful of people who knew what the stuff was and how to cook it, and the rest of us felt slightly uncultured as we struggled with the pronunciation and wondered what to do with those teeny tiny seeds? (Raise your hand if you too went around calling it kwin-OH-ah before someone corrected you. Yeah, me too. Don’t even get me started on agave.)
So, let’s talk about quinoa.
- First of all, it is pronounced KEEN-wah. Glad we cleared that up.
- It is not a grain, even though we cook it like other grains. It is a seed. Quinoa is a pseudocereal, which means it is an edible seed or fruit that can double as a grain.
- Quinoa has a better protein-to-carb ratio than wheat and is high in fibre. This means that quinoa is absorbed slowly so your blood sugar is more stabilized.
- Here’s my favorite quinoa fact: It is a complete protein. In fact, it is the only complete protein found in nature. It contains all nine of the essential amino acids, which cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from food.
- Quinoa tastes bitter if it is not rinsed before cooking. Some quinoa comes pre-rinsed- it will say on the packaging. If you’ve tried quinoa in the past and hated it, chances are it was not properly rinsed before cooking. It is naturally coated with a biter tasting compound called saponin, which fights off pests. This is why it needs to be rinsed before cooking.
- Quinoa absorbs sauces and other flavors, making it an ideal ingredient in main dishes, salads, or sides. The possibilities are endless with this versatile seed!
QUINOA IN MY PANTRY:
There are approximately 120 known varieties of quinoa, but the ones readily available are white, red, and black quinoa. I stock my pantry with all three types.
White quinoa: It is the softest in texture, with an almost buttery flavor. It is the most widely available and least expensive variety of quinoa.
Red quinoa: It holds its shape after cooking and has a strong nutty taste.
Black quinoa: It also holds it shape and has a slightly sweet, earthy taste.
HOW TO COOK QUINOA:
- Boil it: Use a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid (water or stock). Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. It is ready when it releases the little white tails- the germs of the kernels.) Drain, if necessary.
- Toast it: In a dry skillet, over medium heat, cook quinoa until it starts to crackle. Serve over cooked vegetables, in a stir-fry, over cooked greens, or in a salad.
- Make a risotto. Check out my Quinoa Risotto with Garlic and Thyme recipe here- a fail-proof side dish!