March 9, 2010

quinoa & ingredients I grew up eating rice. But can’t do that anymore because of all the carbs. So what’s an aging, figure-conscious Chinatown girl to do? Think quinoa!

To be honest, quinoa — which is pronounced KEEN-wah — doesn’t taste anything like rice. But since it’s low-carb, high protein, gluten-free and reasonably priced, I wanted to love it — even though the texture is too pebbly for me.

After fooling around in my kitchen, I’ve figured out how to cook this great food item in a way that comes closer to approaching the mouth feel of rice. I’m sharing it here, along with  a few other fast ‘n’ easy ideas too.

So…what the hell is quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is mistakenly called a grain because that’s what it looks like. But it’s really a seed. Cooking plumps it to a nice translucence with an opaque, curly edge. There are three main types of quinoa, in three different colors, flavors and textures. The basic beige is most common and the blandest of the bland. Red quinoa is also delicious. All the quinoas mix well with other ingredients.


Black quinoa is interesting too. Both the read and black versions offer more crunch and a nuttier taste. They also need to cook a bit longer. Mixing up the colors can be tasty and fun too.

There’s an urban legend making the rounds about how quinoa needs to be soaked overnight to get rid of any potential bitter aftertaste. Not true! I have never soaked quinoa and it works fine. Another thing…the directions on the box always say to wash before cooking. But I never do. It’s not gritty. Just throw it in the pot!

Hey, you can make quinoa in 15 to 20 minutes!

There are cooking directions on quinoa boxes. What follows is my own, made-up recipe for creating a more rice-like texture.

How to Make Quinoa




  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water for a nuttier texture or, 2¼ cups water for a thicker, rice-y feel.
  • ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


— Add all ingredients to a small pot. Turn flame high to reach full boil. Takes a few minutes.

— Once the water’s bubbling like mad, turn the flame down and cover. But leave the lid open just a crack so that steam can escape.

— Give the quinoa mix about 4 to 7 minutes to absorb the water. It will stop looking like soup and more like mush.

— Now firmly cap the lid closed. Cook on low flame for about 5 minutes.

— Do not open lid. Just turn off flame and let pot sit on stove for another 5 minutes — or until you’re ready to serve. The quinoa will keep cooking nicely in its own heat. I promise you, this is the softest, most tender quinoa you’ve ever had.

My quinoa recipes

You can use quinoa the way you’d use rice. You can also use it to make salads. Add a cup or two to soup. The possibilities go on and on. Fussy recipes bore me so what I’m presenting here is very simple. If you come up with new ideas, please do share!

— Quinoa straight up: serve straight out of the pot as a side dish to a main meat or vegetable.

— Sesame quinoa: add 1 Tablespoon (or more) sesame seeds and a dash of roasted sesame oil to a 1 cup cooked serving of quinoa.

— Quinoa salad: toss with beans, diced cooked carrots, diced celery, nuts, anything!

— Lentil quinoa soup, vegetable quinoa soup: add a cup or two to any soup you’re making. Turns it into an instant meal.