I love rice. In fact, next to macaroni and cheese, it’s probably my favorite food (probably? I’d say DEFINITELY). I’ve never really understood why people are obsessed with foods like pizza and ice cream- rice is where it’s at. It’s ridiculously versatile, comes in dozens of varieties, and can be really inexpensive (it can also be really expensive, but I digress).
While I love pretty much every variety of rice, from perfectly al dente brown rice to gorgeous wild black jasmine, my favorite has got to be perfectly cooked white basmati rice. In fact, I’m going to write a tutorial about how to prepare perfect basmati rice later this week in honor of Ayyám-i-Há (more on that later).
However, just because I love to eat mounds of fluffy white rice doesn’t make it healthy. Sure, you can eat a cup without seeing negative consequences- but who can stop at one cup? I need the whole pot, damnit!
This is where quinoa comes in. Quinoa is god’s gift to rice addicts- it looks like millet but tastes like rice. While the nutrition facts are not terribly different from rice, it is jam packed with nutrients and takes up less space than individual rice grains. Why is that relevant? Because you get more bang for your buck, that’s why. It is closely related to buckwheat and chia, and while it is commonly mistaken for a grain, it’s really a type of grass. Sounds thrilling, right?
Well, sometimes people are put off by quinoa because it’s not very pretty- the individual seeds always remind me of pellets. Also, it DOES NOT taste good al dente, and all too often it is cooked improperly. I’ve made quinoa several different ways with varying degrees of success and tasti-ness: here’s the cooking method that works best for me.
Jessamyn’s Fool-Proof Quinoa Recipe
Yield: 4 generous 1/2 cup servings
1 cup dry quinoa (unrinsed or pre-rinsed, it doesn’t matter)
1 1/4 cup Water (Feel free to use whatever liquid best suits your dish- chicken broth, vegetable broth, cayenne infusion, whatever. Wait, let me clarify- don’t just use ANY liquid i.e- don’t blame me if your beer soaked quinoa tastes awful)
NOTE: There are three major issues which directly result in crunchy and unpleasant quinoa- poor rinsing, short soaking times, and too much/too little water.
First thing you should do?
1. Put your quinoa in a bowl, cover with about 2-4 inches of water, and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Personally, I prefer to let mine soak for at least 1 hour, but I don’t think this is absolutely necessary. Basically, like any soluble object, the longer you allow the quinoa to sit in the liquid, the more liquid it will absorb (resulting in chewy, puffy, delicious quinoa). In my experience, you can do a perfectly fine quinoa soak in 15 minutes. However, if you know you’re going to cook quinoa burgers for dinner, start your soak much earlier in the day. Soaking is really important for everything from grits to beans- if you want the perfect texture, do yourself a favor and schedule time for a decent soak.
2. RINSE YOUR FREAKING QUINOA. At least twice, but preferably three times. Who wants to eat a dinner that is covered with sediment? Certainly not this girl. So after you’ve let your quinoa have a proper soak, rinse it free of debris in a fine mesh strainer.
Imagine this mesh strainer contains quinoa and not, you know…chick peas
Ok, I know not everyone was lucky enough to come across a fine mesh strainer for the bargain basement price of only .25 during a routine yard sale crusade. However, a mesh strainer is pretty key for the rinsing of quinoa- I mean, unless you want to eat the quinoa out of your sink drain. I suppose you could line a regular colander with cheesecloth (actually, that’s a perfectly fine alternative), but you should really invest in a metal strainer. It’s a worthy investment, and it doubles as a sifter when you feel the need to bake vegan chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the night and can’t find an actual sifter (I mean, not like I’ve done that….)
By the way, I think it’s a good idea to rinse your quinoa even if it’s pre-rinsed. Maybe it’s just my inner dystopian farmer, but an extra rinse certainly won’t hurt your dish.
3. After rinsing your quinoa, place it in a medium saucepan and add your pre-measured 1 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Though I usually tend to be vague about proportions, the liquid:quinoa proportion is pretty important in this particular case. Most people say that you should use a standard 1:2 ratio when cooking quinoa and liquid- I think it’s better to use less liquid, but cook longer and slower. This way, your quinoa doesn’t turn out gummy and mushy. Therefore, the 1:1 1/4 ratio works best for me. Others may disagree, but this is the method I will endorse. Depending upon the kind of liquid you use and the strength of your heat source, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of extra liquid. However, this method is fairly foolproof if you use water.
4. After your quinoa reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes.
5. Turn off heat, fluff with a fork, and eat greedily.
Like I said, quinoa is really versatile. I have made fried “rice”, quinoa burgers, stir-fry, and many, many other dishes- just like rice, quinoa can be one of your culinary best friends. It can also be purchased in bulk, a great option if you shop at/live near a store which sells bulk items.
I hope this recipe clears up any confusion about the proper way to cook quinoa. There are dozens of methods, but this works best for me. Maybe the next time you have a craving for rice, you’ll give quinoa a try.