Cooking with Quinoa

Quinoa might be a mysterious ingredient to some people, but demystifying this grain could help you add a healthy staple to your diet.

“We serve quinoa pretty regularly at the hospital because it’s a really great, healthy food and I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say I would never make that at home, I’m so glad I can get it here because it seems so hard,” says Sous Chef Jon Newhard of NMC’s Restaurant and Catering Team. The truth of the matter is that it’s not hard at all.

Quinoa is thought of as a grain, but it is actually a seed, the seed of the goose foot plant. It has been around for centuries, and was cultivated by the Incas.

It’s very nutrient dense, says Newhard. In one cup of cooked quinoa, you get 8 grams of protein and 5.2 grams of fiber. Although it’s high in carbohydrates, it has a low glycemic index meaning it won’t cause as dramatic a spike in blood sugar as some foods.

Cooking with quinoa is as easy as cooking rice, says Newhard. A simple ratio is used with 1 part quinoa to two parts liquid. To add flavor, a bit of olive oil an be added or other spices or flavorings. Bring the quinoa to a boil and then simmer, for approximately 20 minutes. The seeds will expand and pop open, exposing the germ of the kernel.

Newhard offered a quick and easy recipe using quinoa: tabbouleh, a cold salad with vegetables and fresh herbs. Rather than following a recipe to the letter, Newhard recommended using quantities of vegetables and quinoa that suit your taste buds and following these straight-forward steps: Dice some onion and cucumber, chop some scallions, cut some grape tomatoes in half, add fresh mint, and fresh parsley. Add those to some cooked quinoa, with about a half a cup of fresh lemon juice and cup of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine and enjoy!