Because quinoa cooks in just 15 minutes, you could easily serve it in different recipes every day of the week, with different seasonings each day.
Fluffy, like couscous, with a mild, nutty flavor, quinoa is not actually a grain at all. Rather, it's what botanists call a pseudo-cereal because, although it's cooked and eaten like grain, it is related botanically to beets, chard and spinach.
Like oats, quinoa is gluten-free. Substitute it in any wheat-based recipes that call for bulgur or wheat berries.
Cooked in water, quinoa gives you a blank slate for other seasonings, but cooking the grain in other liquids, with seasonings, will give your finished dish more depths of flavor. Experiment with these ideas:
- Use chicken or beef stock for half of the water used to cook quinoa.
- Add dried herbs, such as oregano or thyme, or lemon juice to the cooking water to add a subtle layer of flavor.
- Cook the quinoa in coconut milk instead of water to use in recipes that have Asian flavors.
Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, recommends cooking any grain, including quinoa, by adding a pinch of salt and enough liquid to cover the grain by 1 inch. Simply pour off any excess water after the quinoa finishes cooking.
Serve quinoa in place of rice or potatoes to give any meal a filling side dish. Season it simply or go with more complex herb and spice blends:
- Add salt, pepper and a pat of butter to let quinoa's nutty flavor shine. Toss in a handful of chopped chives, parsley or cilantro to brighten the dish.
- Add salt, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, along with toasted almonds, dried apricots and pomegranate seeds, for a Middle Eastern dish.
- Serve Mexican-inspired quinoa seasoned with cumin, chili powder and tomato salsa, an especially appropriate pairing with quinoa's Incan and South American origins.
- Cook the quinoa with beef stock and add cooked mushrooms, dried thyme, salt, pepper and butter for a savory side dish for steak or roast beef.
Because quinoa has such a neutral flavor, it pairs well with either tangy vinaigrettes or creamy mayonnaise-based or yogurt dressings.
- Use quinoa in tabbouleh salad seasoned with mint, parsley, olive oil, minced garlic and lemon juice.
- Toss quinoa, diced bell peppers and cucumbers in a vinaigrette made with lime juice, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, salt and olive oil.
- Create an Asian-inspired salad by seasoning the quinoa with rice wine vinegar, minced fresh ginger, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and lime juice and adding it to a salad along with sliced green onions and grated carrots.
- Add leftover quinoa to a green salad or a fruit salad with any type of salad dressing to give the salad added texture and flavor.