My New Favorite Grain:
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance within pre-columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and followed in third place by maize. In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, and the United Nations has classified it as a supercrop for its very high protein content (12-18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete foodstuff. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one's needs than wheat protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long duration manned spaceflights.
Quinoa is an easy food to prepare, has a pleasantly light, fluffy texture when cooked and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous.
A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14-18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al-dente pasta). Alternatively, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa.
Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. It is also well-suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.
Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes.
Quinoa flour can be used in both wheat-based and gluten-free baking. For the latter, it can be combined with sorghum flour and tapioca and potato starch to create a nutritious gluten-free baking mix. A suggested mix is 3 parts quinoa flour, 3 parts sorghum flour, 2 parts potato starch and 1 part tapioca starch.