How to Cook Quinoa (and Quinoa Basics)
We call it a “super” grain. Okay. This is a grain that has x-ray vision, can read minds and can run faster than the Flash. Right?! Maybe it doesn’t have all the bad-boy skills that would land it squarely in the same room with the Avengers, but it does have powerful nutrition. Admit it. You saw the Avengers standing in the streets of your mind right then didn’t you? Introducing Quinoa (pronounced keeeeen-wah). It’s kickin’ patootie and taking names.
What makes it so super though? Anytime we refer to a grain as a “super-grain”, it means that it has all the necessary amino acids to be considered a “complete protein”. A complete protein is a protein that contains all 8 of the amino acids present in animal protein. Traditional grains, though remarkable, have needed to be combined with beans, legumes or dairy to produce a complete protein. They had to be together like Dr. Evil & Mini-Me…but with grains…and not bald…or wearing a weird gray suit. Vegans and vegetarians have had to rely on the combining of grains and legumes to make sure they are getting all the nutrition they need. Why? Because complete proteins are literally the building blocks your body uses to repair and construct muscle and carry out vital functions…like planning world domination. You cannot live for very long without these important complete proteins in your diet. Several seeds and grains contain a useable complete protein and contain all the amino acids (including lysine). These seed-grains are often called “Super-Grains”. These seeds stand alone.
See the super-cape and red tights on the Quinoa now? Yeah. We do too.
What planet did it come from? Well, quinoa is an ancient crop that grows in poor soil, dry climates and mountain altitudes. So, it’s from Earth. We’re not ruling out Mars yet…or Krypton…or any Jedi inhabited part of the galaxy. It is native to the Andes but is also grown in South America and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Although it can grow in arid conditions, it thrives best in well-drained soil. It also comes from a family of grains that can’t ever cross-pollinate with any of the gluten-containing grains.
Does it look like a superhero? A quinoa grain is flat and has a pointed oval shape. It is only a coincidence that it looks like a tiny spaceship. It does not have mind-controlling powers like other alien crafts. We swear.
The grains exist is several colorations, including white, red, brown and black. When cooked, quinoa expands to about three or four times its size. When it is cooked, the grain almost looks like a sprout.
It also has a unique texture; the grain itself is smooth and creamy, but the tail of the grain is slightly crunchy. That texture may be what has endeared it to many souls. We love the mild nutty flavor. It reminds us of a pecan.
What are the cooking tricks? First, you will always need to rinse and drain quinoa thoroughly in cold water before cooking. We put it in a metal mesh colander that we’re sure will not let any of my precious dots of happiness slide through into the dark abyss of the sad stinky garbage disposal. It doesn't deserve that kind of fate. It deserves to be made into a super dinner! So, here’s how to do it…
quinoa, rinsed| 1 cup
water | 2 cups
salt |to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Combine water and salt in a 1 and a half quart (6 cups) capacity heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Add the grain, cover the pot, and turn the burner to the lowest setting. Cook covered without stirring for 20 minutes. Fluff.
All right crime fighters. Go out and conquer the world…or Comicon. May the Quinoa be with you!