Many people are unfamiliar with quinoa, pronounced [KEEN-wah]. It looks like a grain but it is actually a seed. However, you can use it as a substitute for many grains, including rice, barley, and millet. Unlike grains, it has a high protein content. It contains all 9 required amino acids to make it a complete protein, much like meat. This makes it perfect for vegetarians. It is also high in antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Before you cook it, it need to be rinsed in a fine mesh strainer under cold water. Continue rinsing it until the water no longer bubbles. The grain is coated in a saponin, which make it taste very bitter if it is not rinsed. Once it has been rinsed, place it in a pot with water. For 1 cup of quinoa you will use 1 ¾ cup water or stock. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce the heat. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed.
It can be served plain as a side dish. You can use it as a substitute for rice when you make stir fry. You can also cool it completely and add sautéed vegetables, nuts, and fresh herbs to make a refreshing cold salad. Like grains, if you want to use it in a cold salad you will need to cool it by rinsing it with cold water immediately after cooking it. Otherwise the carry-over cooking will over cook it and it will be mushy.