When a breakout food finally reaches a small community like Martinsville, you know it’s gone mainstream. To the delicious and healthful quinoa — welcome to town.
New foods are hard to get used to at first. We don’t know how to cook them, and we’re afraid of what they taste like. With quinoa, we don’t even get as far as the taste to get confounded. We can’t figure out how to pronounce its name.
So we’ll start there: “keen-wah.” Quinoa is grown in the Andes in South America.
Quinoa is a wonder plant. It is a complete protein with all of the nine essential amino acids. It is higher in protein than barley, wheat or rice. It’s gluten-free.
It has all the high marks that score well in my kitchen: It is super quick and easy to make and versatile in its uses. It’s delicious, with a satisfying chewy texture and a nutty flavor.
To cook it, cover 1 cup of uncooked quinoa in cold water and let it soak for 10 minutes. Drain it and rinse it well. Quinoa has a bitter coating, and rinsing it properly will remove it.
Place in a pot and cover with two cups of cold water. Add a dash of salt. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let cook for 15 minutes.
Quinoa is done when the seeds about double in size, take on a translucent look and appear to sprout. At that point, remove from heat, cover and let set for about 10 minutes.
Chupe de Quinoa is a delicious quinoa chowder. If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, this is a super way to get started: It’s in a dish with familiar foods, so it doesn’t look like anything weird the family would shy away from. It’s great with corn bread on the side.
Or you could go straight-on with undisguised, unapologetic quinoa simply dressed up with a bit of onion. The next recipe, quinoa with onion and red bell pepper, makes a tasty and hearty main dish.
I cooked it often one year, and then as these things go, forgot about it for a year, then cooked it again last week — supposedly from memory.
I checked the recipe after I made it. I was way off. The recipe calls for three chopped onions and one chopped red pepper. I got those reversed and made it with four red peppers and one onion. The quinoa was still delicious.
That’s what let me know how versatile quinoa is and how easy it is to cook with. I tried it next with the classic triumvirate of chopped onion, carrot and celery — and another home run.