Although quinoa is new to the American market, it was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it "the mother grain." To this day it's an important food in South American cuisine. Hailed as the "supergrain of the future," quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It's considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and it provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients. Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume. Its flavor is delicate, almost bland, and has been compared to that of couscous. Quinoa is lighter than but can be used in any way suitable for rice -- as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings. It's available packaged as a grain, ground into flour and in several forms of pasta. Quinoa can be found in natural food stores and some supermarkets.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.