Perfect Quinoa for Salads and Bowls
Quinoa may be used as a grain in many modern, health-conscious kitchens, but it's a seed. As such, cooking it as you cook rice doesn't do it justice. The key to perfect quinoa lies in its understanding its properties and handling it in its own unique way.
The first thing to understand about quinoa is that it is coated in a substance called "saponins," which are bitter. Much of it is removed at the processing plants, but not all. Vigorous rinsing is almost always necessary to remove the bitterness entirely.
The second thing to know is that, like toasting flour before making a roux or rice before making a pilaf, if you toast the quinoa, you will lend the dish a depth of flavor that you cannot achieve otherwise. Toasting quinoa enhances the flavor just enough to improve the taste without disturbing the flavors of your salad or bowl by adding aromatics or stock.
The final thing to note is that once it gets going, quinoa absorbs water very quickly and can turn to mush or clump when overcooked. Therefore you need to handle its water treatment with care. Leveraging steam instead of fiddling with the temperature of the water is key here. At the last moments of cooking, remove the quinoa from the fire and let the remaining liquid steam the quinoa until it is done, then spread it out on a baking sheet to quickly release the steam and stop the cooking. This method will result in perfect fluffy quinoa every time.
Makes 3 cups of quinoa.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer, shaking and stirring under water until quinoa is the water runs clear and is no longer murky, and then rinse for 10 seconds more. A full rinse may take up to 3 minutes.
Add quinoa, salt, and water to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, until liquid is no longer fully covering the quinoa but is still bubbling through the top. Usually around 20 minutes. Cover tightly, remove from heat, and let steam for 5 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After the quinoa has been steamed, spread the quinoa in a think layer on the baking sheet and let cool for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and use or store.