Today I want to introduce you to quinoa, the world’s favorite cereal. Have you ever wondered why it is included in popular weight-loss diets and menus of famous restaurants, and why it is eaten by celebrities, vegans, and people who are into yoga and fitness?
I will begin with the background. For thousands of years, the staple food of the ancient Incas during their long treks was quinoa balls with fat. After a little digging on the Internet, I realized why.
- First, quinoa is a complete source of protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids, just like cow’s milk.
- Secondly, it contains a lot of fiber, which makes the food very nourishing.
- Thirdly, the high mineral content of quinoa, especially iron and magnesium, speeds up the metabolic processes in the body. This, in turn, leads to faster recovery.
It was this food that increased the stamina of the Indians and helped them survive the harsh conditions of the South American mountains. Hence the other names for quinoa, “mother grain” and “Inca gold.
- What is quinoa
- Quinoa: how to cook it without bitterness
- What you can make with quinoa
- Conclusion or 4 reasons why you should definitely try quinoa
What is quinoa
Quinoa is actually the seed of the plant Chenopodium quinoa (Greek for “little goose foot”), which has nothing to do with grains. It belongs to the amaranth family and is a distant relative of beets and spinach. But in contrast to them, only the seeds of the plant are widely used. Although the leaves are also quite edible.
Quinoa is not only a natural complex of vitamins and minerals, but also a perfect balance of protein, which can fully compensate for the lack of meat in the diet.
Not for nothing did NASA recognize it as the ideal food for astronauts and included it in the list of crops that can be grown on a spacecraft going on a long mission.
While not a grain, quinoa is completely gluten-free, which is very important for people who are allergic to this plant protein. After all, flakes and flour made from quinoa can become a complete substitute for wheat and oat flakes for them.
This product is indispensable for people with diabetes, because it has a low glycemic index (even lower than buckwheat) and does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
But I won’t dwell on all its blah-blah-blah properties. You can read about them if you want on the website United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Types of quinoa
Quinoa seeds look a bit like Moroccan couscous. Only their shape is slightly flattened and their size is about 2 mm. Depending on the color, there are three types of quinoa: white, red, and black. They differ not only in color, but also in taste and application.
Ivory seeds are the most common form of quinoa and can be purchased in most grocery stores. This type of seed is less crunchy, making it a good option for serving as a side dish.
Red quinoa retains its shape better when cooked. This variety is more suitable for cold salads or any recipe where the presence of individual grains is desirable. And the beautiful bright color gives the dishes an appetizing look.
It has a crispier texture and a sweet, earthy flavor. The seeds do not lose their dark color during cooking. This fact should be taken into account when choosing a variety, so as not to disturb the color balance of prepared dishes.
How to choose and store quinoa
Quinoa seeds react poorly to light and high humidity. Therefore, when buying in the supermarket, take the packet deeper off the shelf. Check it for integrity and no fogging inside. Of course, pay attention to the expiration date.
Seeds must be whole, approximately the same size, and of uniform color, unless they are a mixture of varieties. The packet must be free of all kinds of impurities.
Store quinoa at home in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Under these conditions, the groats will stay fresh for more than a year and a half.
But it is better to store cooked food in the refrigerator right away. If stored for more than two hours at room temperature, quinoa loses its structure.
Quinoa: how to cook it without bitterness
Quinoa seeds are originally coated with a shell. It can give a bitter taste to cooked food. To avoid this, you need to rinse quinoa in a sieve under running water until the foam disappears. If time permits, soak the seeds for 2 hours, and then rinse until the water is completely clear.
When choosing a dish for cooking, keep in mind that the porridge will greatly increase in size, by about 2-3 times.
How much quinoa cooks
On average, quinoa cooks for 15-20 minutes. If it is not cooked long enough, the seeds will be too crispy and you are unlikely to like them. At the same time, cooking it too long makes the quinoa mushy.
How to cook quinoa on the stove
After rinsing the seeds, drain off the excess water by throwing the quinoa over a sieve. Evaporate the remaining water in a dry frying pan.
You can also fry the white quinoa until golden. This will not only give the garnish a beautiful color, but will also enhance the nutty flavor.
Now it’s time to add the liquid. This can be meat or vegetable broth, or just water. The main thing is that the liquid must be cold. Take it in the proportion of 2:1.
Salt, stir and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a minimum and cook without a lid for 20 minutes.
During this time the liquid should be completely absorbed. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, just pour it out. Remove quinoa from the stove, cover and let steamed for 10 minutes.
After that stir with a fork. The porridge should be crumbly, with a slight crunch. Cooked in this way quinoa is ideal as a side dish and for salads.
How to cook quinoa in a multicooker
When cooking in the multicooker, use the same ratio of seeds to liquid as in normal cooking.
Turn on the “Roast” mode and dry the already washed quinoa for 7-10 minutes. If desired, roast the seeds in the same mode.
Add cold water (or broth) and turn on “Porridge” or “Rice” mode for 20 minutes. Salt to taste and stir. Close the multicooker and wait for the end of cooking.
Without opening the lid, set the “Warming” mode for 10 minutes. The quinoa is ready. All you have to do now is stir it in. You can add butter.
Common mistakes when cooking quinoa
- If you skip the washing step before cooking, the quinoa will taste bitter and not at all appetizing.
- If you pour boiling water over the seeds, the porridge will be sticky.
- If you do not drain the excess water after cooking, the dish will turn out watery.
- If you do not let the porridge steamed after cooking, it will not come out dry and gently.
- If you do not whip the quinoa after cooking with a fork, lumps are guaranteed.
As you already know, quinoa is a seed. That’s where another, trendy way to use it – sprouting – comes into play among supporters of healthy eating.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even devoted an entire treatise, which detailed all the benefits and risks of this way of consuming seeds.
I will not go into detail, I will only note that sprouts are the perfect fuel for the human body, which is easily digested and quickly restores strength.
But back to germination.
- First rinse the seeds thoroughly.
- Then transfer them to a small tray or plate and remove them from direct sunlight.
Tip: it is best to germinate quinoa in a dark place at room temperature. You can cover the seeds with a paper towel to protect them from dust and insects.
- After 8-12 hours, rinse the seeds again and spread them out for further germination. This procedure should be repeated 2-3 times a day.
- By the end of the second day, you will notice seedlings that are 5-6 mm long. This is exactly the result we were aiming for.
- Now the seeds need to be completely dried. This will take about half a day.
- Then put them in an airtight container or jar and store in the refrigerator. In this way, they will retain all their useful properties for up to five days.
Tip: germinated seeds can also be placed in a plastic zip-lock bag. You just need to squeeze out the excess air from it.
Today there are also special automatic seed germinators on the market, which makes the process easier and faster.
Just a handful of sprouted seeds a day will save you from avitaminosis and chronic fatigue. They can be eaten simply raw, mixed with fruits and berries, added to salads and hot dishes.
Sprouts can also be cooked in the traditional Chinese stir-fry technique. In a deep frying pan, preferably a wok, heat the vegetable oil and fry the sprouted seeds for 2 minutes. The result is a tasty and crunchy treat, but I personally find that once fried, most of the benefits of sprouts simply evaporate.
What you can make with quinoa
Quinoa is not only used as a side dish. It can be used to make cutlets and stuff vegetables.
You can make porridge with meat, mushrooms or seafood. Quinoa flakes are a great breakfast, a kind of energy cocktail.
Quinoa makes excellent desserts: puddings, casseroles, cheesecakes and even bread (you can get flour for baking by grinding the seeds in a blender or coffee grinder). And salads with it turn out not only very tasty, but also beautiful.
More cooking ideas can be found in the article “Quinoa dishes. 57 delicious and healthy recipes for every day“.
What to diversify quinoa with
In the chart below, I’ve selected different ingredients that go great with quinoa, adding something of their own, individual, to dishes.
|The ingredient||Quantity per 100 g of dried quinoa||Note|
|Avocado||1 pc.||Dice the avocado, chop it in a blender, and pour the sauce over the cooked porridge. This vitamin-rich breakfast is a great way to start the day.|
|Canned beans||425 g (1 jar)||Canned beans add juiciness. This is not a dish, but a solid protein, enriched with micronutrients.|
|Cherry tomatoes||10-12 pcs.||Sweet and flavorful tomatoes will organically complement the taste of quinoa. Just cut them in half and put them on the porridge. You can, of course, roast or bake the tomatoes beforehand. Then the tomato flavor will be more intense.|
|Lemon or lime||Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime||A great snack option for those who want to lose weight.|
|Mushrooms||200 g||Pre-cut the mushrooms into cubes and fry them in oil. And your porridge will get a rich mushroom flavor.|
|Corn||Frozen corn kernels – 100 g||Defrost the grains and add to the quinoa at the end of cooking. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. The result is not only nourishing and tasty, but also beautiful.|
|Brynza||150 g||Crumble the bryndza (you can use your hands) into a bowl with the quinoa already cooked. This moderately calorie-dense dinner is suitable even for those who watch their figure.|
|Shrimp||100 g of peeled fresh frozen shrimp||Fry the shrimp in olive oil until golden (1-2 minutes on each side). You can enhance the delicious flavor with a spectacular appearance by taking a mixture of white and red quinoa.|
|Broccoli||100-150 grams of frozen broccoli||Roast the cabbage in oil (you can do it without defrosting it) until soft. Quinoa combined with broccoli is a great vitamin dish for your menu.|
|Strawberries||6-7 pcs.||Cut the strawberries into thin slices. Their bright flavor goes well with quinoa. This variation is very popular with children.|
|Spices and herbs||To taste.||Garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and of course black pepper go well with quinoa.|
Conclusion or 4 reasons why you should definitely try quinoa
- Huge health benefits. Joel Kahn, M.D., a practicing cardiologist and clinical professor of medicine at Wayne County University School of Medicine, Michigan, confirms through his research on quinoa that fiber protects the heart and prevents deadly diseases, such as cancer. And the antioxidants in this product have a magical effect on skin and hair health.
- Promotes weight loss. Adding quinoa to your diet will provide the amount of soluble fiber your body needs to lose weight. And the presence of 20-hydroxyecdysone, better known as ecdysterone, helps reduce body fat.
- Easy preparation. You will spend no more than 30 minutes for cooking. And sprouted quinoa can even be eaten raw.
- Variety is an opportunity to try something new. Surprise your family when you make your next dish! I’m sure quinoa will catch on in your kitchen, partially replacing the usual rice and pasta. Plus, quinoa can be used as a complementary food for babies as young as eight months.
And finally, some interesting information. The largest serving of quinoa weighing 1,680 kg (3,704 pounds) was made in Peru in 2016, which did not leave out Guinness Book of Records.