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Quinoa is an ancient food from high in the Andes, grown by the Incas long before the Spanish arrived on the scene. Quinoa thrives in frigid, desertlike, high-altitude environments, places that would be the death of almost all other grains.
Although called a grain, quinoa is actually the seed of specific plants in the goosefoot family — a group of plants that includes spinach and chard.
Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain. Every single PointsPlus™ value gives you 2.3 grams of protein. And ounce per ounce, it has more calcium than milk. Plus, quinoa is a great source of manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. All that, and quinoa is gluten-free, too!
Quinoa cooks really fast, in just minutes — a great whole grain for busy weeknights.
You’ll most often find two types of quinoa at the store: red or white (sometimes also called “yellow” quinoa).
Black quinoa is a rarity, usually found only in health-food stores.
Quinoa can also be ground into a flour for use in reduced-gluten or even gluten-free baking and cooking.
At just 1 PointsPlus value for every 1 1/2 tablespoons raw quinoa (or 1/4 cup cooked quinoa), this grain’s got a lot to offer!
And it’s economical, to boot. At 30 cents per ounce, it comes out to about 18 cents per PointsPlus value. No wonder it’s a miracle grain!
Quinoa is fairly mild-tasting with a slight nuttiness, maybe even a little grassy like wild rice.
|In truth, quinoa is all about the texture: great crunch and pop in every bite. Consider it the caviar of whole grains! |
|Individual quinoa grains are tiny, smaller than wheat berries, barley, or even millet grains. When cooked, the quinoa germ unfurls to form a small, translucent halo around the grain.|
|Because quinoa is so high in polyunsaturated fats, it can go rancid rather quickly and should be stored in the fridge for up to 4 months. If possible, buy it from a health-food store or gourmet market where there’s a high turnover of product on the shelves. Quinoa flour should be stored in the freezer.|
|Although quinoa flour is by nature gluten-free, it may be processed in a facility that also processes wheat and other gluten-laden grains. If important, check the manufacturer's website to make sure yours is made in a gluten-free facility.|
|As they develop, quinoa seeds coat themselves with a natural insect repellent called saponin — which has a bitter, soapy taste. Most quinoa sold in the United States is prewashed to remove the saponin.|
|If your pot of quinoa has a soapy film on top, the grains were not properly prewashed. Drain repeatedly and wash these seeds thoroughly before continuing to cook.|
|That said, all quinoa, even the prewashed kind, should be rinsed in a fine-mesh colander before cooking to remove any saponin dust that may still adhere to the seeds. |
Toasting the raw seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or two will enhance their nutty flavor. But be careful: Quinoa is one of the few whole grains that will pop over high heat!
Substitute a small mound of cooked quinoa for the starch at any meal — in place of rice, pasta, couscous or potatoes.
There are two methods for cooking quinoa. For one, mix 2 parts water to 1 part raw quinoa in a saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork.