Cooking Quinoa

Does quinoa seem bland and doughy to you? 

You are not cooking it well: this is how you prepare a delicious quinoa

The recent trend of "superfoods" began somehow with quinoa or quinoa, that pseudo-cereal of Andean origin that suddenly seemed like the essential food that had to be tried yes or yes. There are no magical powers to be attributed to it, but quinoa is a very healthy product that can also be delicious. The problem is that we don't always cook it well.
As with tofu, many people reject quinoa out of sheer ignorance, because they hate fashion - I don't blame them - or because their attempts at it in the kitchen have been unsuccessful. If you have a pack of quinoa languishing in the pantry I encourage you to give it another try; These are the tricks to always cook perfect and very tasty quinoa.

Neither bland nor watered down: the best quinoa is fluffy and slightly crisp

Although compared to rice, bulgur, or couscous, quinoa is not a cereal as such. It is considered a pseudocereal because it really is a seed, and that sets it apart with unique nutritional characteristics. It stands out for its content in high-quality vegetable proteins and essential amino acids; It is also satiating, rich in beans, minerals, and vitamins, and has a low glycemic index.
But this time we want to focus on its gastronomic qualities to cook quinoa that you want to eat. Cooking is not difficult: just cook it in plenty of liquid until it is cooked, such as rice or pasta. However, in the details of that cooking, there will be the difference between a watered-down and bandurria or an enjoyable bite.
Really tasty quinoa has to have a slightly loose, fluffy grain and a soft resistance to bite. We do not want a porridge with a rubbery or soft texture, bland and sad; Only in a few exceptions will we be interested in obtaining a creamier finish.
cook quinoa


Consider rice or pasta itself, is there not a chasm of flavor between well-cooked rice, with the grain loses, and pasta al dente? Quinoa is the same. And it may be somewhat tasteless on its own, but exactly the same goes for other cereals or any cooked pasta.
It is not always necessary to wash it previously
When we started cooking with quinoa we learned that it was essential to wash it very well before using it. The beans are covered in saponin, a natural substance that ingested in large quantities could be toxic, although its beneficial properties and applications are also being studied.
It would be very difficult to be intoxicated by ingesting an excess of saponin through food; however, it has a very bitter taste. When quinoa began to be marketed directly from Andean plantations, it certainly did arrive untreated, but today almost all brands have previously washed the beans to eliminate that bitterness for the consumer.
Today almost all quinoa is marketed already washed
In any case, it is best to read the manufacturer's instructions and taste the quinoa before and after cooking. If it still contains high amounts of saponin, it will be noticeable when sucking a raw grain. Otherwise, it is best to save this step, not only because of the loss of time and water but also because it will make cooking a bit more difficult.

Toast the raw quinoa before cooking

I like to do this trick also, according to the recipe, with other cereals, raw or cooked legumes, or even with seeds. If we have pre-washed the quinoa it is also an almost essential step to completely eliminate that first moisture, and we will also achieve a better flavor, with tones of walnut or dried fruit.
Ideally, use a thick-bottomed pan or pan that transmits heat well over high heat. We can use a little oil to prevent it from sticking and to enrich it even more, but it looks great roasting on its own. Depending on the dish, it may also be advisable to brown it together with spices, ground or whole, such as caraway, cumin, or turmeric.
Pre-roasting the quinoa raw will obtain a better flavor and texture
If we cook it long enough at a very high temperature we can even "inflate" it a little, as if they were tiny popcorn. You just have to be very careful not to jump and not burn it.
Another good option is to fry it with other ingredients, just as we would do when preparing, for example, rice. It is as simple as poaching some onion, garlic, and tomato, incorporating the raw quinoa with some spices and frying the whole two or three minutes before adding the water.

Reduces liquid volume.

Theoretically, follow the instructions of each manufacturer to know the exact proportion of dry quinoa and water or broth. However, most brands ask for double - or triple! - of liquid, almost always causing the quinoa to be watery or overcooked.
To avoid this, try cooking it with a ratio of 1: 1 and 1/2; for example, a glass of quinoa with 1 glass and 1/2 of water. You can always add a little more liquid towards the end if you fall short. And it is rare that that happens.

Cooker with the lid on low heat

Once everything has come to a boil it is recommended to bring the power of the fire to almost the minimum, cover the pot or casserole, and leave to cook unopened for about 15-20 minutes. We do not want the hot steam to be lost, so we must avoid the temptation to browse the interior until at least 10 minutes have passed.
The exact time will vary depending on the brand, type of fire, or a variety of quinoa. We will use the directions on the package as guidance, but in the end, you have to be guided by the experience. Well-cooked quinoa will begin to be transparent, with that characteristic more marked outer ring, but we do not want it to separate.
Let stand
It is always preferable to reduce the volume of liquid and adjust the cooking time so that the grain can be left to rest once cooked. Check that all the water has been absorbed when the quinoa is already al dente, or if it is missing very little, and cover again quickly. Let stand 5 minutes away from the fire and then air with a fork, gently.
It is the idea that is applied to the preparation of the precooked couscous, helping the grain to separate with the fork still hot, to achieve that spongy texture. For an extra point of flavor, add a splash of extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, or some spice before resting.

Even easier: cook quinoa like pasta

One day when I was in a lot of trouble in the kitchen, I thought about not complicating myself and prepared the quinoa as if I were cooking pasta. It's a ridiculously simple method that works wonders:
    Put a pot or saucepan with plenty of salty water to heat.
    When it is boiling with joy, add the quinoa, and reduce the heat a little.
    Cook for about 15 minutes, until al dente, slightly firm.
    Drain quickly with the help of a strainer, without rinsing it.
    Let cool in another container or on a tray, spreading it out so that it loses heat.
Toast again once cooked
This step is optional but highly recommended if we want firmer and looser quinoa. Once cooked, try sautéing it in a pan with some oil, adding if you want some spices. Keep the fire soft so as not to burn it, we want the moisture to evaporate completely and mark the grain so that it is toasted a little.

Do you cook or enrich?

Quinoa can be a great garnish to accompany casseroles, dishes with sauces or dressings, and vinaigrettes in a salad, but cooked by itself can be bland. If you've applied the tricks above and still find it tasteless, try cooking it in more than just water.
In addition to adding spices to the roasting phase, you can put in the water some bay leaves, cloves, curry leaves, a bouquet garni, garlic cloves ... or also a splash of soy sauce, tamari, Worcestershire, tabasco, miso or vinegar. It will also gain a lot if we change the water totally or partially by broth.
There is another technique I learned cooking white rice just as valid for quinoa: brown a couple of garlic cloves filleted with good extra virgin olive oil and sauté the freshly cooked quinoa. If we are making a more exotic dish, adding a cinnamon stick and some cloves will work wonders.

Alternative ways to cook and serve quinoa

We said at the beginning that quinoa is very versatile, and that also applies to cook techniques. Preparing it as we have seen so far we can use it in recipes of all kinds: stir-fries, pilaf, salads, side dishes, a poké bowl, veggie burgers, wraps ... But there are alternative ways to cook it.
    Adding some handfuls directly raw to soups, stews, stews, and stews, for example, to enrich a casserole of lentils or chickpeas.
    Leaving it semi-cooked to finish its cooking in the oven, filling peppers or other vegetables.
    Crushing the raw grain to obtain a flour that we can use to thicken or make a vegan, gluten-free bechamel sauce.
    Cooking it like rice in a paella pan, or applying the same idea to baked rice.
    Adding quinoa to sweet doughs, biscuits, and biscuits, or bread doughs.
    Using it to enrich the filling of croquettes, meatballs, dumplings ...
    Cooking the quinoa in milk or vegetable drink to make a creamy dessert, rice pudding style, pudding, or fruit porridge. If you prefer a more “mordant” texture, mix the cooked grain with the milk in cold, or heat it very slightly.
Cooked quinoa can be kept for 3-4 days in perfect condition in the fridge, provided that it has cooled completely and we use a good clean container with an airtight seal. It also freezes without problems, so it is a good idea to prepare large quantities at once and separate portions according to our needs.

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