The Veggie Table: 3 Ways to Dig Into Quinoa

By: Janel Ovrut Funk

Herbed Quinoa: Giada De Laurentiis

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

Cooking quinoa (which is considered a whole grain even though it's actually a seed) is as simple as cooking brown rice, using two parts water to one part quinoa. An important step in the cooking process is to rinse the dry quinoa before cooking to help remove the coating of bitter-tasting saponins. Once cooked, quinoa can be used in a variety of recipes and interchanged with any whole grain. And because quinoa is naturally gluten-free, it is a great pasta substitute for those who cannot tolerate wheat.

There are three kinds of quinoa you'll find at your grocery store: red, black and white, and all have a slightly nutty flavor and a texture much like couscous. Here are three of my favorite ways to enjoy quinoa.

Quinoa burgers: The protein punch you get from quinoa makes it a great ingredient to use when making veggie burgers. Cooked quinoa holds ingredients together well when forming burger patties so there is no need to use egg as a binder if trying to keep them vegan. These Spicy Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers or my simple Whole-Foods-inspired Quinoa Sweet Potato Patties can be enjoyed with or without a burger bun.

Quinoa salads and side dishes: Warm weather BBQs and picnics call for cold grain salads since they're easy to transport. Hot quinoa side dishes make great leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Quinoa can easily replace rice, couscous, or any grain in a recipe. This Mexican-style Quinoa Salad with Corn and Black Beans is best enjoyed cold and is a good way to enjoy the last of the summer corn. (Or try Giada's Herbed Quinoa, above; for a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock.)

Baked goods: Quinoa flour, which is a great gluten-free flour alternative, can replace wheat flour in cake and cookie recipes. Try quinoa banana bread, scones, muffins and crepes. Quinoa flour can also be mixed with water to make pancake batter consistency. Add in a pinch of sea salt and fresh or dried herbs to make a savory quinoa pancake in a skillet. I've enjoyed this quinoa "pancake" as a replacement for pita bread when paired with soup or a salad, and as a bread alternative in an open faced sandwich.

TELL US: What's your favorite way to enjoy quinoa?

Janel Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel

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