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Tips on how to make quinoa higher, says one chef

In Miami, where a rich mix of Latinx populations thrive and share their eating traditions, quinoa has long been a staple on many menus, especially in the hundreds of Peruvian restaurants.

And if the Pan-Latinx restaurant by star chef Lorena Garcia Miami girls Opened just before the pandemic, it was a prominent part of several dishes. Let her teach you how to do it better than you have ever done before.

The origins and benefits of quinoa

An ancient seed that was originally harvested in the Andean region that stretches through Peru and Bolivia – and is now grown in more than 70 countries – this pseudograin, as it is botanically known, was first imported in 1984. Touted as a gluten-free super grain, quinoa seemed like a good substitute for those who couldn’t eat wheat.

For such a tiny seed, quinoa has a myriad of health benefits – it contains all nine essential amino acids that are normally only found in whole proteins like meat, fish, eggs, and soy. It also has a low glycemic index, making it easier for those who eat it to control their energy and hunger levels, and it’s high in manganese and magnesium – a one-cup serving provides 58% and 30% of the recommended daily allowance, respectively each, respectively.

But it didn’t really take off around the world until the wee hours of the morning when quality control improved and the spread of the need to rinse it before cooking to remove the bitter saponins, the naturally occurring toxins, the insects, birds and others Stop animals from consuming it – and make quinoa taste like soap.

These saponins, which also contain chickpeas and kidney beans, can devastate both your taste buds and your gastrointestinal tract if not removed. (Beware: even if you wash quinoa, you may be sensitive to the saponins left behind, which you cannot taste and therefore still suffer from terrifying symptoms.)

You’ll need a fine-mesh strainer to keep quinoa from seeping through when rinsing off the saponins.

Rinse it out properly

Hence, it is important to remember that quinoa, like rice, should definitely be rinsed off before use. “I recommend running it through fresh water before boiling to remove any impurities,” Garcia said.

You should do this regardless of how your quinoa pack is labeled. Nowadays, almost all common quinoa is delivered pre-washed. But that means very little. The definition of pre-washed force, the power of the spray equipment, the amount of water used, whether by machine or by hand, how often it is done – is hardly specified and varies greatly.

If you’re sensitive to saponins, you might even want to soak your quinoa for a while. Saponins work and taste like soap. So as soon as you put the seeds in a bowl of water and whisk or stir them, you should see vortices rising up. Change the water a few times until nothing is foaming; Now you know the saponins are being washed away.

The best uses for quinoa

The easiest way to cook quinoa is to steam it or simmer it in liquid until the kernels are plump, fluffy, and split. As Garcia notes, “It cooks a lot like rice.”

If you just want to steam it, you can replace it with rice – or potatoes or pasta – to pair with any main course like chilli or curry. The tender quinoa serves as a sponge cake for hearty sauces or juices. This eliminates the need to season it with anything other than a little salt and pepper.

You can also serve steamed quinoa cold or at room temperature and use it to make salad dishes. At Chica, Garcia uses steamed quinoa for a “hearty and healthy salad”, which she crowns with grilled prawns. Steamed quinoa is easy to mix with other vegetables and starches like grilled corn or roasted peppers for crispness or some other textural counterbalance. Then lightly season with a dash or two of olive oil or a vinaigrette.

Chica’s “Grilled Shrimp and Quinoa” with beluga lentils, queso fresco, fire-roasted corn, chili poblano and purple potato sofrito.

Leftover steamed quinoa must not be thrown away. Add it to a soup or casserole, like a seafood cazuela or tagine that is typical of a different grain like couscous. Or toss it in a wok with some egg, leftover protein, and vegetables to make fried quinoa.

If you prefer to cook it like rice, in a rice cooker or instant pot until the liquid is soaked up, refine it with strong, seasoned broths or savory starters such as a mirepoix or sofrito (garlic, onions and peppers that are tender in olive oil) . The quinoa goes well with lean proteins like fried chicken, grilled fish or seared steak.

Crispy quinoa as a garnish

Garcia likes to use roasted quinoa as a side dish. “It’s a great ingredient to add crunch and texture to various dishes,” she said. “At Chica, we fry it at a high temperature, which makes it nice and crispy to top our famous crispy Peruvian octopus.”

This crunchy counterpoint also goes wonderfully with soft starters like guacamole, hummus, or even your favorite spinach dip. Garcia often contrasts her guacamole and more delicate dishes with pomegranate seeds, which add a quick burst of juice. Try sprinkling both fried quinoa and pomegranate seeds over items like sauteed scallops or grilled avocado for a super simple but impressive presentation.

If you’d rather go without oils or have no way of deep-frying at home, roast quinoa right on the stove. After washing it, let it dry on paper towels. (In that case, however, you can start it wet – the heat will dry it out quickly enough.) Either way, distribute it one cup at a time in a large, non-stick frying pan. It starts popping like popcorn quickly and turns brown. It will smell nutty too. After cooling, store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and use as is. You don’t have to keep cooking unless you want it to be hot. Add to muesli, fruit, salad or yogurt for counterpoints.

When you have a lot of quinoa that you want to roast, spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet and slide it into a 375-degree oven. Just keep an eye on it as it toasts quickly. And make sure to move it regularly so that it browns evenly.

Bonus: turn your oven-roasted quinoa into quinoa flour

Oven-roasted quinoa can be pulsed into a gluten-free flour in a spice grinder or food processor. Roasted and ground quinoa is great for breading raw proteins and vegetables before putting them in the oven or air fryer. It is also useful for thickening sauces, soups and sauces gluten-free or for making a roux.

In fact, making your own quinoa flour is a great way to add protein to your plant-based diet. Mix alternately or with nut flours to get variations on the theme.

Of course there are also abbreviations: You can always just buy organic quinoa flour in rock flour. It’s usually in the back aisle or the gluten-free area (or both). Stored in the refrigerator, it lasts up to two years and is ideal for baking gluten-free delicacies.

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