Your Quinoa Questions Answered
Last year was the “Year of Quinoa,” according to the United Nations General Assembly. But the popularity of this ancient grain has hardly peaked yet. Once enjoyed primarily by natives in the Andes region of South America, quinoa has taken the world by storm. Much of its popularity stems from its excellent nutrition profile.
So what exactly is quinoa? Pronounced “keen-wah,” this grain is technically a “pseudocereal.” Most grains, like wheat or oats, come from plants in the grass family. Quinoa is the seed of a plant more closely related to spinach than grass. What really matters, of course, is how good it tastes and how good it is for you. For starters, quinoa is a source of complete protein: It supplies all the essential amino acids your body needs. Few plant foods provide the full gamut of essential amino acids. Quinoa is one of them.
It’s also a good source of dietary fiber. A 3.5-ounce serving provides 7 g of fiber, about 368 calories, and a host of vitamins and minerals, including about one-third of the daily value for certain B-vitamins and iron. It also supplies nearly one-half of the daily value of folate (vitamin B9). Quinoa also evidently supplies some important phytonutrients, such as quercetin and Quinoa was relatively inexpensive a few years ago. But it’s rapid rise to international stardom has driven up prices in recent years. Don’t let that stop you from at least trying this satisfying grain. In its natural state, the seeds are coated with a natural soapy substance. Most sellers will have rinsed this bitter coating away before you buy, but if uncertain, run cold water over the grains in a fine-mesh strainer for a few minutes, before cooking. To cook, add one cup quinoa to about two cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes, until water is absorbed.
Quinoa has a mild nutty taste, but it benefits from your creative additions. Try adding sautéed chopped shallots, onions, or garlic, and toss in some chopped toasted nuts. Fluff with a fork and serve hot. Enjoy!