Quinoa (pronounced keh-NO-ah or, sometimes, KEEN-wah) is a relative newcomer to the American pantry. The tiny, ancient Peruvian seed, which has a mild, nutty flavor, is related to leafy green vegetables and is often used like a grain. Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content.
Quinoa is very easy to cook. It’s important to rinse the seeds well, because they are naturally coated with a bitter substance that protects them against birds and other predators. Most packaged quinoa has already been cleaned, but it doesn’t hurt to soak and rinse it just in case. Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes, and it’s easy to tell when it’s done because the seeds display a little white thread that curls around them.