There are two really common questions when it comes to quinoa. 1) How is it pronounced? Answer: KEEN-WAH. I think this is one of those ingredients like Worcestershire sauce that nobody really knows how to say, so they just say it really fast. I can’t be the only one who does that? 2) What is the best way to make quinoa? I add the word delicious because I have a mouth-watering recipe I can’t wait to share with you.
What Exactly Is Quinoa and Where Does It Come From?
Quinoa has been a staple for thousands of years in the Andes region of South America. It just happens to be one of a few crops the ancient Incas were able to cultivate at such high altitudes. More recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization named 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. While most of us consider quinoa to be a grain, it is actually a seed which grows from a plant in the goosefoot family, which also produces edibles such as chard and spinach.
One of the reasons quinoa must be boiled before consumption is to remove the outer coating, allowing the seed to be visible.
Quinoa has a high protein content and provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is also gluten free, cholesterol free, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and is almost always organic and can also be kosher.
It can be included in a variety of dishes from salads to desserts to breakfast omelets and casseroles. Oftentimes if I am just using quinoa as a side dish, I will forego boiling in water and will use a chicken, vegetable, or beef stock instead. This adds another layer of flavor and does not affect the texture of the seed. Garnishing it with some herbs and spices and a squeeze of lemon is all that is needed to bring out the nutty flavor of the seeds.
How to Make Quinoa
Quinoa is super easy to make. If you know how to boil water, you’re already halfway there! The process is similar to that of cooking rice in that you simply use one-part dry quinoa to two-parts water.
The only difference is that quinoa is better if it’s rinsed first (though some quinoa comes pre-rinsed, it doesn’t hurt to give it a second rinse), so place a cup of quinoa into a fine mesh strainer (a colander’s holes are too big, and the quinoa would just rinse down the drain), and run it under cold water. This removes the natural coating found on quinoa (saponin) that can impart a bitter, slightly soapy flavor.
Now that you know how to make quinoa, the following recipe is one I have made on several occasions. And I’ve never been left with leftovers. I love the idea of pairing a dark leafy green such as kale and roasted beets with quinoa. The beauty of this dish is that it tastes great served warm or chilled, and it’s colorful and looks very appetizing either way.
Roasted Beet and Kale Quinoa Salad
- 3 medium-size beets, peeled and chopped (bite size)
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 2 tsp oil (preference)
- 1 cup quinoa, prepared
- 1 cup kale, stems removed (bite size)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup oil (preference)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients together in a jar or tightly sealed container and shaking vigorously. Set aside.
- Combine first three salad ingredients (beets, vinegar, oil) and toss gently to ensure each beet is well covered.
- Place beets onto a baking sheet and roast for approximately 20 minutes.
- Gently fold kale into the prepared quinoa, and add dressing.
- When beets are done cooking, add them to quinoa mixture.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Chef Note: If you have never cooked with beets, be prepared to have a purple tint to your fingers for a few days, and it would not be surprising for your quinoa to take on a deep reddish/purplish color too.
Chef Note: I have found that feta cheese pairs very well with this salad. And if you are so inclined, toss a handful of walnuts in for some extra crunch.
Chef Note: The fresh herbs I have tried in this dish are parsley and basil. I would also recommend dill or even adding some fresh citrus peel or juice for some zing.
Now you know how to make quinoa delicious!
- Yields 4 servings
- Calories: 327
- Fat: 16.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 38.9 g
- Fiber: 5.2 g
- Sugar: 7.3 g
- Protein: 8 g