Quinoa [kiːnwɑ], from Quechua* kinwa, a species of goosefoot, is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudo-cereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. Originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it was successfully domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption, though archaeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.
* South American language
After harvest, the seeds need to be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. Quinoa seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Quinoa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited.
The nutrient composition is very good compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Quinoa has become increasingly popular in the United States, Europe, China and Japan where the crop is not typically grown, increasing crop value. Between 2006 and early 2013 quinoa crop prices have tripled.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ in recognition of ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations, through knowledge and practices of living in harmony with nature. The objective is to draw the world’s attention on the role that quinoa plays in providing food security, nutrition and poverty eradication, in support of achieving Millennium Development Goals.
Not only may cooked quinoa be substituted for rice but it can be an ingredient for salads and more.
1 cup quinoa – white, black or red – each cup of dried quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked
2 cups broth or water (depending on brand, some quiona cook faster/slower, please read packaging as well)
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using broth and it contains salt, omit)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- It is not necessary to soak quinoa. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Rinse for at least 2 minutes under running water. Rinsing removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter. Let it drain completely.
- On medium-high, heat oil in a saucepan, add the drained quinoa and sautee for 1~2 minutes to evaporate any water and then do a little bit of browning.
- Add broth/water and bring to a boil. Add salt (pepper, herbs and/or spices if desired) and stir.
- Lower heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed. Turn off heat, take the lid off and put paper towel on the saucepan. Put the lid back until ready to be served (5~10 minutes).
- Fluff quinoa gently with a fork, while dishing out on a serving dish. (tiny spirals/germs separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds will be seen.)
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