Quinoa (a name supposedly derived from the Spanish word for “fantastic”) is not really a grain. It is the fruit of a plant that belongs to the same botanical family as beets. The quinoa plant reaches a height of 3 to 10 feet and produces flat, pointed seeds that range from buff to russet to black. So why all the praise for quinoa? Quinoa is relatively easy to cultivate and withstands poor soil conditions and altitude. It also packs a nutritional punch in its tiny seeds. It contains more protein than most grains and offers a more evenly balanced array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It is higher in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, and iron, than many grains. Quinoa seeds can be cooked or ground into flour. Several types of pasta are made from quinoa flour. The leaves of the plant also are edible, and the seeds can be sprouted and eaten.
Quinoa is cooked in the same way as rice, although it cooks in about half the time. Its flavor is delicate, and some describe it as hazelnut-like. Before cooking, it is important to rinse quinoa seeds until the water runs clear. They are covered with a bitter, powdery resin that can result in an unpleasant taste if it is not removed. Quinoa flour has a low gluten content. It cannot be used alone in baked goods because they will not rise properly.
Quinoa is cooked like rice and makes an excellent substitute for it. “Toasting” the quinoa grains in a hot skillet before boiling gives it a roasted flavor. Adding cooked vegetables and fresh herbs also complements its delicate flavor. Quinoa flour can be used in many baked goods. Quinoa also makes an excellent hot cereal and can be added to soups and stews. Quinoa pasta is cooked and used like traditional types of pasta.
Encyclopedia of Foods
Red Quinoa and Cauliflower Salad
1 medium cauliflower
Blanch the cauliflower and boil the quinoa.
Meanwhile, crumble the cheese and chop the rest of the ingredients.
Mix them all together, sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil and season to taste.
Serve warm or cold.