What Is Quinoa? Plus the Best 5 Quinoa Recipes

AskEllie_Quinoa_02.tif

AskEllie_Quinoa_02.tif

Food Styling: Anne Disrude Props: Marina Malchin.

New Year’s healthy eating resolutions are all the rage right now, and countless conversations suggest how we should eat to start 2012 on a wholesome note. Included in many good-for-you lists is one tiny food that packs a huge healthful punch: quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah), which is loaded with protein, fiber and magnesium.

Though it is smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain, thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. However, it is actually a seed that originates from the cousin of the spinach plant. When cooked, these seeds expand rapidly and significantly, become tender but chewy and expel spirals that boast the slightest crunch. When using quinoa, it’s important to rinse it thoroughly before boiling, as it’s often coated with saponins that are bitter and need to be removed.

After cooking in liquid — water or chicken broth are most common — quinoa becomes light, fluffy, nutty and the ideal canvas to showcase intense flavors, rich textures and your favorite veggies, meats and sauces. Give this super seed a try, using Food Network's five best quinoa recipes and let us know what you think of it.

5. Yellow Quinoa — Ingrid Hoffman’s 25-minute quinoa is best served hot, with sauteed onions, green chiles and adobo seasoning.

4. Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad With Goat Cheese and Black Olive Vinaigrette — Thanks to its multiple robust components and flavors, this hearty salad is an entire meal on a plate.

3. Salmon Kebobs With Quinoa and Grapefruit Salad — A light accompaniment to grilled salmon, this simple quinoa side dish boasts in-season grapefruit, sliced ginger and a balance of sweet and spicy with warm honey and a serrano chile.

2. Lentil Quinoa Salad — Equal parts quinoa and lentils drizzled with a Dijon vinaigrette ensure that this salad is protein-packed and satisfying.

1. Quinoa With Garlic, Pine Nuts and Raisins — After fluffing the quinoa (pictured above), Ellie tosses it with contrasting textures and bold tastes, including chewy raisins, crunchy pine nuts, a squirt of lemon juice and raw garlic.

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