Although it’s technically a seed, quinoa has grain-like qualities that make it a versatile addition to diets. Often referred to as a supergrain, quinoa is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and many vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, thiamin, folate, magnesium, iron and manganese. As an added benefit, it cooks faster than rice and can be used in many different types of dishes -- from hot breakfast cereals to savory vegetable and meat dishes, and even sweet desserts.
The outside of the quinoa seed is coated with a bitter-tasting compound called saponin. Although most commercially available quinoa has been pre-washed, you should rinse the quinoa before cooking it. If you notice any suds in the rinse water, the saponin has not been completely removed. Rinse the quinoa several times until the water runs clear.
Basic Cooking Method
Quinoa cooks easily on the stovetop. Combine one part quinoa with two parts water in a saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for approximately 15 minutes. The quinoa should have absorbed all of the liquid. If there is still some remaining liquid, let the quinoa simmer for another couple of minutes. Before serving the quinoa, fluff it with a fork.
To enhance the seed’s nutty flavor, you can toast the quinoa before adding the liquid. Toast it in a dry skillet for approximately 3 minutes over medium heat. Then, add it to the liquid and cook as usual. Toasted quinoa will cook in approximately 12 minutes. You can also substitute a variety of liquids for the water. If you are making a hot breakfast cereal or quinoa pudding, replace half of the water in the recipe with coconut milk or fruit juice. If you are making a savory dish, you can use vegetable or meat stock in place of the water.
Alternate Cooking Methods
For a novel take on homemade granola bars, you can add toasted, but not boiled, quinoa to your recipe. Use it in place of some of the rolled oats and bake the bars in the oven following the instructions in your recipe. If you have a rice cooker, you can steam the quinoa in approximately 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook the quinoa in your slow cooker. This method takes about two hours on the low setting.