The Incas grew this grain and revered it. Traditionally the emperor would sow the first seeds with a golden shovel. Don’t you think we should appreciate it more?Interestingly, quinoa is actually not a grain (since it’s not a grass plant) but is actually related to beets and leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Early colonists forbade the Incas from growing their “grain” and had them plant wheat instead and so wheat took over.
(look for pre-washed quinoa, sometimes you can find red and/or black quinoa it will cook the same way)
Quinoa is undemanding in terms of growing and even withstands high altitudes like the Chilean Andes among other places. It and can even withstand low chilling temperatures through the night and high heat during the day. Early frostbites do not harm hearty quinoa. And yet its taste and texture is light and gentle.
Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse with terrific protein content plus a whole palate of minerals and vitamins. Vegetarians love quinoa because it is a complete protein in fact.
After harvest bitter tasting Saponins on the outer layer of the seeds have to be removed which is usually done commercially before it hits the market shelves. Saponins are used in laundry detergent and to clean skin as an antiseptic. So because it is mildly toxic, it is not a bad idea to re-rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve until it has no more bitterness when tasted – just to be on the safe side.
Quinoa’s fluffiness reminds me of cous cous. I had great success substituting quinoa in many rice recipes and had great success more or less reducing the cooking time which is a welcome time saver.
(LEFT; carrots, celery onion and spices cooked then add quinoa and cook covered)
(recipe yields four side portions)
2 clove garlic
3 stalks of green celery
2 tablespoons vegetable oil such as canola
1 teaspoon thyme
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt such as Baline
- Peel onion, garlic and carrots. Slice vegetables and celery thinly (1/8-inch thick).
- In a pot (1-gallon sized) heat vegetable oil on medium heat setting then cook vegetables. Season vegetables with salt and pepper and continue to cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add quinoa and water then cook for 30 minutes.
Chef’s Tip: Quinoa is cooked once the seeds are “al dente” – meaning it still has texture to the tooth. Another indicator quinoa is cooked is when the germ divides from the seeds.
(click to enlarge - in this way you'll see the little germ divides from the seed)
Try some freshly cooked quinoa for breakfast with some nuts and fruits such as berries – you’ll love it. If you have a bird feed him some raw quinoa seeds he’ll love it too.