January 27, 2011

VH BASICS: Cooking Quinoa

I Love Love Love Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)! It's such a great base to make so many great dishes. Not only that, but it's such a great food for Vegans to be eating. Most people think quinoa is a grain (which makes sense, since it's cooked like one) but it's actually a seed. It originated in the Andean mountain area in South America where it was easy to grow in the harsh altitude. The Inca's actually held the quinoa crop as sacred! Its protein content is very high. Unlike wheat or rice and like oats, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. So if anybody ever asks you that you aren't getting complete protein, tell them they're wrong! Especially if you're eating quinoa!

When cooked, quinoa has a fluffy texture and has a slight nutty flavor similar to rice or couscous so it's a great substitution for those in any recipe. Before cooking, make sure you've purchased pre-washed quinoa. Quinoa has a coating on the outside that taste very bitter if it's not washed.

The basic cooking method is just like rice. 2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa. I sometimes like to toast mine in the saucepan before putting in the water to enhance it's nutty flavor, but usually I just cook it in my rice cooker. If you're cooking on the stove top though, combine the 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the temperature and simmer for 15-18 minutes. You'll know when it's done cooking when the curly germ has separated from the seeds.

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