How to Cook the Perfect Pot of Quinoa

Recently on Chopped Teen Tournament, we saw four young cooks compete for the chance to move on to the grand finale. You could feel the pressure rising as they used their experiences, both inside and outside the kitchen, to inspire their dishes.

In Round 1, it wasn’t immediately clear what the teenage cooks were going to come up with using saucisson en croute (a fancy pig in a blanket), quinoa, white harissa and seaweed salad, but they figured it out, and Lyanna and Thomas even received a special nod from the judges for their restaurant-quality plating styles.

Quinoa has become increasingly popular over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest food to cook. As we saw, not all of the competitors were able to cook their quinoa to the judges’ satisfaction. Like rice, quinoa requires some know-how if you want to achieve that tender, fluffy (not mushy) texture.

Give your quinoa a quick rinse before you start cooking. The nutty-flavored seed has a natural coating you need to wash off to avoid a bitter aftertaste in your final dish.

Prep your other ingredients. If you want to make a meal of it, decide what other components you would like to incorporate. Sauteed vegetables, fresh herbs, and a simple vinaigrette make a quick and easy grain salad, but you can also add sausage, as the contestants did in the appetizer round. Looking for a sweeter dish? Serve your quinoa with nuts and dried fruit.

A foolproof technique

In a medium pot, combine 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water or stock, along with a pinch or so of kosher salt. Bring it to a rolling boil, and cover it with a tight-fitting lid.

Reduce the heat to low and let your quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes.

Note: You can toast your uncooked quinoa first with a little olive oil before adding the water, but you don’t have to.

Turn off the heat, but leave the lid on the pot to steam your quinoa for about another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve with sauteed vegetables or any other additions you would like.

Tune in to Chopped Teen Tournament Tuesday at 10|9c.

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Photo by Angela Carlos

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