Quinoa is a wonder grain worth getting to know! And cooking quinoa is not difficult as long as you make sure the natural coating has been removed. See here for more on quinoa's nutritional benefits.
Nature protects the quinoa grains with a bitter, soap-like coating of saponin that will create a bitter-tasting cooked grain if it isn't removed or destroyed first. There are several easy methods of doing this:
Raw Quinoa (pre-rinsed)
The most common method for cooking quinoa is the same as for most grains - absorbtion, cooking with just enough water that the grain absorbs it all. This is usually done on the stovetop, but can be done in the oven also.
Another method is boiling, which is cooking in a copious amount of water and draining off the excess when the grain is done, but this excess water may contain valuable nutrients.
Lastly, one can cook quinoa by steaming, something I haven't tried, but is said to produce the most fluffy end product. A steaming apparatus capable of holding the tiny quinoa grains would be necessary.
With the absorbtion method, you do have some control over the finished grain, and experimentation in your own kitchen and with your own tastebuds will help you discover your preferences. Using a tad more water will, of course, give you a moister grain that sticks together, and using a little less will give you a drier grain with more separation. You can also add enough extra water to make a porridge consistency.
The general rule of thumb for full absorption is two times the water as grain, so 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa. I find though, that soaked quinoa requires less water, about 1/4 cup less per cup of grain, or that it needs a longer cooking time to absorb the full amount. Since thoroughly cooked grains are better for us digestively, I don't mind letting it cook for 25 or 30 minutes if need be. When I don't have that kind of time, using less water to start with is the answer.
There are no hard and fast grain cooking rules and times because grain crops can vary, water absorbed from the soaking can vary, and an untold number of other variables in each of our kitchens.
So stay loose and know that you can't ruin it. Just start with the basic ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, and see how it goes. Make adjustments, if necessary, next time.
If it takes your grains longer than the 15-20 minutes to absorb the water, don't worry, over-cooked grains are much better for you than under-cooked. Some recipes will actually call for a much longer cooking time.
Use quinoa as you would other whole grains - in casseroles, pilafs, sautees, soups, bean dishes, stews, breakfast porridges, or as a replacement for pasta in pasta salads.
Once you've cooked quinoa a few times, you'll see how easy it really is. Make a large batch once a week or so, and use it throughout the week in various quinoa recipes. Even kids love the mild nature of quinoa. The rewards are great when you get used to cooking quinoa.
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