Quinoa is a South American plant whose seeds have a delicious nutty flavor. It’s not a true cereal (it’s related to spinach and Swiss chard), but it’s rich in protein compared to grains, and makes a great rice or wheat substitute (safe for people allergic to wheat). It’s wonderful sauteed as a side dish, but it’s so versatile that you can even make cakes and other desserts out of it.
The protein in quinoa is “complete” – that is, it has all nine essential amino acids. It’s rich in magnesium, so if you get migraines or other issues that are caused by insufficient magnesium, adding quinoa dishes to your diet could help. In any case, magnesium is good for you, and it’s better to get your essentials from food than supplements.
Quinoa is quicker and easier to prepare than whole grains are. You can prep and cook it inside twenty minutes.
- Measure. One cup of dry quinoa yields about three cups cooked. Figure out how much you need and measure it out.
- Rinse. Put your dry quinoa in a strainer and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Some people suggest 5 minutes of rinsing to make absolutely sure you’ve gotten off the natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter. If it’s pre-rinsed, just a good minute of so of rinsing should be more than adequate.
- In the pot. Put it in a saucepan and add twice as much water – always stick to that 2:1 ratio.
- Cook it. Bring it to a boil. Cover the saucepan and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure the germ has separated (see picture below).
- Let it stand. Take it off the heat and let it stand for five minutes.
Your finished result should look like this. Note the little white spirals curling out from the seeds? That’s the “germ”, and when it looks like this, you know it’s separated.
And now you’re ready to add some salt, maybe a little butter, or apply any of the following recipes to it.
You can also cook it in a rice cooker, using the same 2:1 water ratio, or in a microwave. For the microwave, put your mix of 2:1 water and quinoa in a microwaveable bowl and cook it on high for five minutes. Lower the power to 60% and cook for another 8 minutes. Let it stand for 5 minutes after whatever method of cooking you use.
You can substitute quinoa for the grain in any recipe using rice, couscous, etc. Check out my couscous recipes for some great ideas!
This recipe is great as a side dish – add it to any meal in place of a potato, rice or pasta side dish. It calls for chicken broth, but if you prefer vegetable broth, that will taste great, too.
Toasted Zucchini Quinoa
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup diced zucchini
- 1 tablespoon garlic
Put a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter in it, and then add the quinoa. Stir it occasionally as it toasts to a light brown color (about 5 minutes). Pour in the broth, stir and turn up the heat to bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to bring it back to a simmer, cover and let it cook for 10 minutes. Add in the zucchini and garlic, stir, cover and let cook for another 5 minutes.
- Latin flavor: cilantro, lime and scallions come together to form a delicious lightly spicy treat that’s wonderful with white meats (tilapia is a nice choice, but so is plain ol’ chicken)
- Curried: fresh ginger, tumeric, coriander, cinnamon and other seasonings, with peas tossed in at the last minute and cooked until they’re just tender
- Butternut Squash Chili: with beans, squash and the quinoa for protein, this vegetarian chili variation can be a complete meal.
- Quinoa-and-Turkey Patties in Pita with Tahini Sauce: this recipe is awesome, but think of all the other things you could do with these patties, like sliders, all kinds of sandwiches, beef-free chili, etc.
- Pudding: like rice pudding with fruit cooked in. This dish makes a great dessert.
- Coconut Quinoa and Sweet Potato Curry: a lightly sweet dish spiced with garlic, cumin, turmeric and more. If you love sweet potatoes, this one is not to be missed.
- With Herbs and Mixed Olives: not many dishes use green and black olives together, but in this case the black olives give the whole dish a more rounded flavor while the green ones perk it up with their tang
- Waffles: waffles made partly or wholly out of quinoa flour instead of just white flour. If you’re on a gluten-free or celiac-free diet, this recipe has instructions for eliminating both.
- Warm Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa: eat it in place of a bowl of oat meal for breakfast
- A bonus page full of user-posted recipes: lots of good stuff here!
There’s no reason to limit yourself to these recipes. Once you’ve tried a few, you’ll see how flexible quinoa is. Coming up with your own dishes, or tweaking other people’s, is so easy. It’s hard to make a mistake with this tasty staple, so don’t be afraid to experiment!