Though it’s been popular with vegetarians for years, quinoa has recently made its debut in the world of mainstream foods. While you’ve probably heard about it and know that it has a reputation as a healthy grain, you may not know much else about quinoa. As you continue your online culinary courses, learn some more information about this increasingly popular food item.
What is it?
Quinoa – pronounced keen-wah – is a species of goosefoot called Chenopodium. The seeds of this grain are often used in recipes. Quinoa is native to Bolivia, Chile, Peru and parts of Mexico. Ancient Inca tribes referred to it as “the mother of all grains,” as it was said to imbue warriors with strength and stamina. The superstition is partially correct, because quinoa is packed with valuable nutrients such as protein, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium and fiber.
Farmers in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest have recently begun to grow quinoa. It thrives in cold climates at high elevations such as those in its native South America.
Quinoa requires some knowledge to cook. It has a bitter outer layer that keeps birds away, but must be soaked off before cooking. Most packaged quinoa has been presoaked so that you don’t have to worry about this step. Take a look at the package to find out whether or not this particular brand has been soaked. If not, leave the quinoa in water for 5 to 10 minutes. It should have a 1-to-2 ratio of quinoa to water, respectively.
Quinoa is cooked much in the same way as rice. Once your grain is soaked, pour it into a pot and add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. Boil it, then simmer for another 15 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
Ways to use it
Quinoa can be eaten hot and plain or used as an ingredient in dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Salad: Quinoa makes a great salad addition, as the grain is packed with protein. Let it chill before mixing it into your favorite salad recipe. Try an Asian-inspired greens dish that incorporates soy sauce, fresh ginger, hot pepper and peanuts with vegetables and quinoa.
Stuffed peppers: Many stuffed pepper dishes use rice. Substitute quinoa instead, as it has more nutritional value. Go for a Mexican-inspired dish by adding enchilada sauce along with shredded chicken and cheese.
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