How to cook quinoaGet the perfect flavor and texture from your quinoa, every time

Cooked quinoa

Quinoa: A history of greatness, almost lost!

Until the Spanish conquistadors destroyed the quinoa fields of South America in the 1500s, this little seed had nourished the Incas for thousands of years. It was the chisaya mama, “the mother grain”, the sacred food, gold of the Incas. Sadly, quinoa fell into oblivion, almost forgotten even by the people it had fed for so long.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that quinoa re-emerged and was introduced to the American consumer. In less than 30 years, it has become a western staple — not because it’s a “super food,” as scientists have discovered, but simply because it tastes good.

And what a super food it is! A complete protein with an abundance of Lysine, quinoa is also packed with essential minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous. No wonder this little seed was thought to have given the Inca warriors their incredible stamina. I say “seed,” because although we refer to quinoa as a grain, technically it’s the seed of chenopodium (a pseudocereal), a plant related to beets, chard and spinach. In fact, the leafy foliage of chenopodium quinoa is also edible.

For me, though, I don’t need statistics or a degree in botany to be convinced that quinoa is a great food! I just adore its flavor. Cooked the proper way, this tiny, “lady-like” seed is delicate, fluffy and slightly nutty. Once you’ve had a taste of it, you’re hooked.

Step one: wash your quinoa!

But before you start cooking your batch of quinoa, there’s a small detail you need to know. The quinoa seed is naturally coated with a bitter substance called saponin. Surely the quinoa plant evolved this way to make its treasure unpalatable to birds and other foragers. Aside from being quite bitter, saponin can be mildly toxic. Therefore, commercial quinoa sold in the US has been pre-washed to remove the unpleasant saponin. But I find that it’s not a bad idea to rinse the seeds again before cooking them (see the pictures and instructions below).

If quinoa hasn’t found its way into your kitchen or your heart yet, I hope this little article will convince you to give this noble food a try — I know it’ll have you coming back for more!


Cooked quinoa


Quinoa

makes 3 cups
active time: 10 min

  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 1 1/2 cups spring water (or filtered water)
  3. 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 garlic clove – skinned
  5. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

  1. Step 1: Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse in cold water, rubbing the seeds between your fingers. Strain and discard water. Repeat this process using fresh water two more times. The water will be cloudy at first and then become clearer. After rinsing the quinoa 3 times, strain and shake excess water vigorously. Set aside.
  2. Step 2: Place spring water in a medium heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and slow-simmer for 15 minutes until tender and the water has been absorbed.
  3. Step 3: Turn off the heat. Remove garlic and discard. Stir well, cover and let stand for another 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and serve.
  4. Cook’s note: The quinoa can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Cool to room temperature, place in a container with lid and refrigerate.

side dish, grain, quinoa

Step by step

Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse in cold water, rubbing the seeds between your fingers. Strain and discard water. Repeat this process using fresh water two more times. The water will be cloudy at first and then become clearer.

After rinsing the quinoa 3 times, strain and shake excess water vigorously. Set aside.

Place spring water in a medium heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, garlic, olive oil and salt.

Stir well.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and slow-simmer for 15 minutes until tender and the water as been absorbed.

Turn off the heat. Remove garlic clove and discard.

Stir well.

Cover and let stand for another 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, the quinoa is light and fluffy and ready to eat!

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11 Comments

  • Reply Kristin larkin November 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I found the combination of historical information about the grain, the clean writting and the clear picture of the process of the receipt a three tiered winning combination. My audio, sensory and visual modalities are ignited! This quinona sounds yummy and a rich addition to any dinner. Thank you Vivian Bauquet Farre

  • Reply ravenouscouple November 5, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    thanks for the informative post! this is something we’ll like to try sometime and we’ll surely look to this post.

  • Reply Not Delia November 7, 2009 at 4:09 am

    I’ve never tried quinoa, but after reading this will certainly give it a shot. I also enjoyed the historical and cultural information. Thanks for a great post and an enjoyable read.

  • Reply Dana Treat November 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    This is terrific! I love quinoa and make it fairly often, but I feel like mine is often clumpy and not as fluffy as I would like. No I realize I wasn’t cooking it quite right so I will try your technique next time. Thank you!

  • Reply Nate November 10, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Gorgeous photos! Quite coincidental – I’ve been craving quinoa all day today as well. Now I have to make it!

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