Quinoa has become much more popular the past few years, but some questions remain. What is quinoa? How do I make quinoa? And most importantly, how the heck do I say “quinoa”?
The first time I had quinoa, I was an unassuming twenty-year-old, lost and scared in the Whole Foods that was inexplicably placed between a Circuit City and a Borders and across the street from a Target. I had already broken the first rule of going grocery shopping by showing up at the store hungry enough to eat an entire six-foot sub, with dipping sauce on the side, naturally. I’d picked up my usual groceries and on the way to the cash registers, I passed the ready-made deli section of the store. Unable to contain myself any longer, I look at the salads and cut cheeses that shimmered beneath the sneeze guard. I saw the quinoa salad, helpfully labeled “Quinoa Salad” and asked, timidly for “a big container of, uh, Quinn-oh-ah salad.” The deli-dude looked at me and just laughed. “It’s keen-wah,” he said. I was too hungry to care but now I know and you all now and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
Quinoa is actually the seeds of a plant in the Chenopodium genus. It originated in the Andes region in South America. Because quinoa is the seeds of the plant, it is a great source of protein. What makes it even more special is that it is a complete protein, unlike beans. If you don’t eat meat, if you do eat meat, whatever you eat, it’s nice to be able to mix up your protein sources and this is a great choice. Quinoa isn’t totally ubiquitous, but it’s very common in fancier grocery stores and the “health/natural” section of some large chains.
Quinoa should be rinsed before being prepared to remove bitter chemicals called saponins. After it’s rinsed, throw it in a pan with a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio and you’re ready to go. It cooks like rice, maybe a little bit faster. You know you’re done when the water has absorbed and your quinoa is looking fine and fluffy. I like cooking it in broth to give it more flavor, but it’s not a necessity or anything.
Personally, I like to take some quinoa, cool it down and make it into a zesty springtime salad. That’s wishful thinking in February, but here’s the recipe for anyone dreaming of flowers and April showers.
2 cups cold quinoa, cooked
Juice from one lemon
Tablespoon of olive oil
1 avocado, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
6 oz. baked tofu
Salt and pepper to taste
Just mix all of that together and eat it. It’s really forgiving, so you can basically make any substitution you want. Don’t like tofu? Try bell peppers instead. Or leave it out entirely.
Have you used quinoa? What do you use it in? If you haven’t, do you think you’d try it?