I grew up in Bolivia and quinoa was always a normal staple for us. We ate it steamed like rice, as porridge, in soups and in a sort of cakey bread (pastel de quinoa). It is not until recently – and by that I mean maybe 10 years ago – that I started making salads with it. Quinoa was a very important meal for the Incas and is dubbed the ‘golden grain of the Andes’. It is considered a super food and is very high in protein, iron and manganese. It is also free of sodium and cholesterol and contains all 9 essential amino acids the body needs. Quinoa has a nutty, earthy flavor to it. It contains saponins that are released during cooking and will make it bitter; therefore, quinoa must be washed and rinsed thoroughly – a good 3 to 4 times – in order to prevent bitterness. However, most quinoa sold in the US has already had the saponins removed during processing. When you cook it the solid grains become transparent with an exterior ring. This cereal has an ever-growing popularity around the world and is easier and easier to find at your local grocery store.
Check on the box and see if the quinoa you are using had been pre-rinsed. If not, wash and rinse it 3 to 4 times in order to remove the saponins. Here is what you need to do for 3 cups of cooked Quinoa:
3/4 cups raw quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or low sodium vegetable stock
1. Wash the quinoa very well, scrubbing it between your hands and rinsing often until water comes out clear. This will take 3 to 4 times.
2. Place quinoa in a fine sieve colander and allow the water to drain well.
3. Heat a skillet with some oil, over high heat, until very hot. Add the quinoa and toast, stirring constantly, until quinoa turns golden and starts crackling, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Bring the low sodium vegetable stock or water to a boil in a separate pot.
5. Add the toasted quinoa. Season with salt – if using stock use salt sparingly. Cover. Reduce heat to low and allow steaming for approximately 20 minutes. The grains should be soft but not mushy. Add a little bit more water if necessary. You will know it is cooked when you have a translucent center with a ring on the outside. Fluff with a fork and serve.
1/4 cup – CALORIES 174.13; FAT 6.2 grs (sat 0.93; mono 3.4; poly 1.56); PROTEIN 6.39 grs ; FIBER 2.23 grs; CARBS 23.09 grs; CHOLESTEROL 2.25 mg; IRON 1.63 mg; SODIUM 399.59 mg; CALCIUM 17.44 mg