Quinoa is a seed from a plant that comes from the same food family as beets and spinach. The seeds are used in place of grains such as rice, and they have a nutty flavor. Quinoa comes in a range of colors -- black, red and white-beige -- but the taste and texture of the different varieties are similar. Rinse all quinoa before using it to minimize the chances of bitterness.
To rinse quinoa, place the measured amount in a fine-mesh strainer and run water over it from the faucet. Gently stir the quinoa with your hands, looking for inedible particles such as seed husks, bits of grass or small rocks that may have made their ways into the quinoa, and remove those particles. Once the grains have been rinsed thoroughly, shake off the excess water and cook it as your normally would.
Necessity of Rinsing
Rinsing removes saponins, the bitter coating on the exterior of the seed. When cooked, saponins produce a soapy, bitter taste many people find unpleasant. While some quinoa comes pre-rinsed, all quinoa should be rinsed prior to cooking if you cannot tolerate even a little bitterness. However, commercially available quinoa is better cleaned prior to packaging than it was when the seeds first were available for sale. The seeds are more thoroughly polished, removing more of the saponins prior to packaging. Because of this, rinsing commercially available quinoa before cooking is optional as long as you do not mind some bitterness in your quinoa.
Taste and Texture
Rinsed quinoa has a softer, mushier texture than un-rinsed quinoa, because it is exposed to more moisture. Un-rinsed quinoa do not "pop" as much as rinsed quinoa, and the white tails of the cooked seeds are less visible in un-rinsed quinoa. In addition to removing more of the bitterness, rinsing also affects the overall taste of quinoa, giving it a milder, less nutty flavor.
Cooking and Using
Cook quinoa with a 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to quinoa. Use any type of liquid to cook your quinoa as the germs absorb the flavor of the liquid. In addition to salted and spiced water, consider using stock or adding a dash of alcohol. Once the quinoa and liquid are boiling, lower the heat and simmer for roughly 15 minutes. When cooked, the germs have a slight bite to them and a small tail is visible around each seed. Use quinoa in place of rice or other grain foods, including pasta. It also can be chilled and used as the base for a grain salad.