Whenever I used to hear the word quinoa, I'd turn the other way. Quinoa fell in a different family for me - a family who spent a lot of time with the tofu family. Good for those who think either tastes good, I used to think, and for those with higher social standings in the anti-carnivore world than me. Yes, I know how good quinoa is for you with its essential amino acids, iron, calcium, protein, blah, blah, blah. I'm also not a big carb eater, so with quinoa in the grain family, and a seemingly sad step child, I was always anti-quinoa. And did I mention it tasted like dirt?
One day I found myself at a holier than thou eatery in LA which harms no animals or what seemed like anyone's taste buds when creating their food. It was quinoa or bust. I bit into a big bowl filled with vegetables and spices, and was intrigued by the crunch. I'm a big fan of texture and if it's mush, I'm not going near it. My baby food eating days are long behind me. So here was some quinoa providing a bit of bite, and then I realized it didn't seem like I was eating off the forest floor. Hmmm, flavor, texture. What's going on here? It was time to revisit this grain and take it into the kitchen for some experimentation.
Here's what I've learned. You MUST rinse the quinoa before you even look at it. If you don't remove all the dirty crap, you will also always have quinoa on your do not eat list. I throw it in a colander and rinse with my hands until the water runs clear and it feels grit free.
I then put it in a pot and turn the heat on to try and dry out the grains a bit and give it a slight toast. This is not an absolute mandatory step, but if you have the time, give it a try.
Some people like to put double the amount of liquid (water or stock), but I think it's too much and prefer a 1.5 ratio, ie., 1 cup quinoa to 1-1/2 cup water. Then I like to throw in some salt and a garlic clove. Yes, I fear the taste of dirt. Throw a lid on top where ideally you have a vent and can release a little steam.
Bring the bad boy to a boil, and then reduce the heat so it's at a gentle simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes or until the water has been all absorbed. After, fish the garlic out, chop it up and throw it back in. The piece de resistance at this point is to add some white wine vinegar. Dirt be gone because now the flavor has arrived.
From here, the choices are endless, after you cool it for at least 15-20 minutes. Throw in some herbs, vegetables, feta, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, kalamata olives, but I say leave the tofu behind. One step at a time.
How to Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups water or broth
- 1 1/2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Rinse quinoa in a strainer under running water until water runs clear and quinoa is free of grit and dirt.
- Place clean quinoa in a pot and turn on low for 3-5 minutes. Stir to work off water and start to toast the grains.
- Add water or broth, garlic and salt, and cover loosely with a lid.
- Once a boil is reached, turn down the heat to low and keep a simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the quinoa has cooked through.
- Take off heat, remove garlic, chop and place back in pot.
- Add vinegar and allow to cool.
- Once cool, add your favorite protein and vegetables for a one dish dinner or lunch.