Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is an ancient seed, grown high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia. Like its cousins, buckwheat and amaranth, it is not actually a grain, but the seed of a grass. Quinoa is higher in protein than wheat, containing all 10 essential amino acids and no gluten. As a gluten free grain, it has risen in popularity in the US, where 3 varieties are available: gold, red and black quinoa, the latter two having harder shells adding extra crunchiness.

COOKING NOTES: To protect the plant from predators, the plant produces a bitter, waxy substance called saponin that coats each quinoa seed. Although the quinoa available in stores may have been rinsed to remove this coating, it is essential that you thoroughly rinse it well in a mesh strainer to remove this bitter coating and the result will be worth the minute of extra work.  

To prepare quinoa for a salad or pilaf, rinse it well in a mesh strainer and spread it out to dry, on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel. In about 15 minutes, pour it into to a large saucepan and dry toast it for 5 minutes, until it pops and smells like popcorn. Then add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 10-12 minutes, until almost all of the water has evaporated. Remove it from the heat and spread it out again on dry paper towels to cool for use in a salad, pilaf or fritters.

To prepare it as a breakfast cereal, it can simply be cooked as you would rice.
After rinsing, mix 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Stir gently, reduce heat and cover for 15 -20 minutes. Remove lid, fluff with a fork and add nuts or seeds, berries or dried fruit and coconut oil or ghee and enjoy!

Unlike wheat and rice, quinoa contains the essential amino acid lysine,
which along with the other 9 essential amino acids, makes it a complete protein.
It also contains both omega 3 and 6 oils, linolenic and linoleic acid. Quinoa is packed with the mineral magnesium, and also has calcium, iron and vitamins B2, E and a lot of fiber.

The red and black varieties contain anthocyanins, which appear to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. Mix the varieties and enjoy discovering what you can do with this versatile, gluten-free grain substitute.