There are many varieties of quinoa, ranging in color from white to red to black, but all can be prepared with this basic, foolproof method that produces light and fluffy results every time. In nature, quinoa (which is not a true grain but the seed of a tree fruit) is coated with a bitter substance called saponin that acts as a repellent to predators. Though most quinoa you buy comes prewashed these days, it doesn't hurt to give it a quick rinse as called for below. Prep-ahead this large batch for using as a side dish or in salads or bowls during the week.
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve under cold water, swishing the quinoa with your hands to rinse equally for about 30 seconds. Let drain.
Bring the water or broth, the olive oil, bay leaf and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low so the quinoa is just simmering. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaf. If you are making the quinoa ahead, spread while hot on a baking sheet lined with parchment to stop the cooking as it cools. Once cool, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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