If you are a football fan (and even if you are not) you may have seen a certain advertisement in which a fan is presented with a quandary of cooking and eating a certain non-meat patty. He ask himself what the heck is quinoa and decides that it is good luck and therefore he must eat it. Putting aside the superstition, he does ask a very pertinent question – what the heck is quinoa?
To put it simply, quinoa (pronounced kee-n-wa) is the edible seed of a grain like plant. Although it is often categorized as a cereal, it is in truth a pseudo cereal as the plant is not a part of the true grass family. In fact, it is in the same family as beets, chard, and spinach. Quinoa is highly variable due to a high complexity of different subspecies, varieties and landraces. Thus you have quinoa in all sorts of colors such as red, black, pink, orange, purple or just transparent.
Quinoa is a native to South America where it was cultivated for thousands of years. There is good reason it has been around for this long. Quinoa is exploding with nutritional excellence. It is a good source of minerals as well as having a higher quality protein of than most cereals. Added to the high nutrition, quinoa is resilient withstanding harsher conditions and variability in its cultivational altitude. So what does this all mean? Quinoa is one of those foods that is gaining popularity due to its nutrition as well as its flexibility in our everyday menu. While I am not quite willing to concede that it will replace a burger or even have a place on my grill, I am willing to point out some other great ways to consume this superfood.
To prepare quinoa, you must first rinse it off so that you remove any bitter tasting saponin from the seeds.
Quinoa cooks very much like rice with the exception that it only requires 15 minutes. At work we usually steam cook our quinoa. Once cooked, quinoa remains slightly crunchy with the texture of caviar and a flavor similar to hazelnut.
Quinoa can be used in innumerable ways. It can be eaten by itself or you can add it to soups, salads, and other dishes. It can be used as a substitute for most cereals, especially rice. Quinoa can be used in both hot and cold applications. In fact, we use quinoa at work for a many things, for example, a cold salad for the salad bar.
I used it in conjunction with brown rice and lentils to make a pilaf.
As you can see, quinoa is not something to be feared, but rather something to be embraced. So go out there and get wild with quinoa. Just please, keep it off the grill!
Images obtained from TastyKitchen.com and Manuel De la Mora.