Quinoa is the seed of a leafy plant that's distantly related to spinach. Quinoa has a light, delicate taste, and can be substituted for almost any other grain. Quinoa has excellent reserves of protein, offers more iron than other grains and contains high levels of potassium and riboflavin, as well as other B vitamins: B6, niacin, and thiamin. It is also a good source of magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese, and has some folate (folic acid).
Quinoa grains are about the same size as millet, but flattened, with a pointed, oval shape. The color ranges from pale yellow through red and brown to black. Quinoa cooks quickly to a light,fluffy texture. As it cooks, the external germ, which forms a band around each grain, spirals out,forming a tiny crescent-shaped "tail," similar to a bean sprout. Although the grain itself is soft and creamy, the tail is crunchy, providing a unique texture to complement quinoa's delicate flavor.
Quinoa can be found at health food stores and some supermarkets. It should be stored in a tightlysealed container in a cool, dry place.
Quinoa should be rinsed thoroughly before cooking to remove any powdery residue of saponin. Place the grain in a fine strainer and hold it under cold running water until the water runs clear;drain well.
Toast the grain in a dry skillet for five minutes before cooking to give it a delicious roasted flavor.To cook, use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Combine the liquid and toasted quinoa in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain, about 15 minutes. During cooking,
Quinoa increases about three to four times in volume.
To make a quinoa pilaf, begin by sauteing chopped onion and garlic in a little oil. Add toasted quinoa and liquid (two parts water to one part quinoa) and simmer as described above. After the pilaf is cooked, you can stir in other ingredients such as toasted nuts, dried fruit, shredded greens,fresh herbs, or cheese.