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How to make the best quinoa, according to chef Lorena Garcia


Last May, Miami Herald sports reporter Michelle Kaufman spoke about how the new Major League Soccer team Inter Miami has improved their collective feeding. With the help of certified dietitian Lissette Cornejo and former Delano and Intercontinental Chef Elizabeth Barlow, they moved on from dinner at the Hooter’s after games and practices in the cafeteria. There, an array of options await, including grilled fish with quinoa. In the article, midfielder Lewis Morgan is a player who specifically mentions quinoa as a reliable standard for lunch.

The football field isn’t the only place in South Florida where high-protein quinoa makes a serious impression. In Miami, where an abundant mix of Latinx populations thrive and share their culinary traditions, quinoa has long been a staple on many menus, especially in the hundreds of Peruvian restaurants. And when celebrity chef Lorena Garcia’s pan-latinx restaurant Chica miami opened shortly before the pandemic, it was an integral part of several dishes. Let her teach you how to make it better than you have ever done before.

The Origins And Benefits Of Quinoa

An ancient seed originally harvested in the Andean region that runs through Peru and Bolivia – and is now cultivated in over 70 countries – this pseudo-grain, as it is botanically called, was first imported in 1984. Marketed as a super gluten-free grain, quinoa seemed like a good substitute for those who couldn’t eat wheat.

For such a small seed, quinoa has many health benefits – it contains all nine essential amino acids, which are usually only found in complete proteins like meat, fish, eggs, and soy. It also has a low glycemic index, which makes it easier for those who eat it to manage their energy and hunger levels, and it’s high in manganese and magnesium – a one-cup serving provides 58% and 30%. % of Everyone’s Recommended Daily Intake. , respectively.

But it only really took off in the world in the early years, when quality control improved and rumors spread that it needed to be rinsed before baking to remove bitter saponins, the natural toxins that prevent insects, birds and other animals from consuming it – and makes quinoa taste like soap.

These saponins, which are also found in chickpeas and kidney beans, can wreak havoc on both your palate and your gastrointestinal system if not eliminated. (Warning: Even if you wash your quinoa, you can be sensitive to its persistent saponins which you cannot taste and therefore suffer from frightening symptoms.)

You will need a fine mesh sieve to keep the quinoa from going through while you rinse its saponins.

Rinse it well

As such, it is important to keep in mind that like rice, quinoa must absolutely be rinsed before use. “I recommend running it through fresh water to remove any impurities before cooking,” Garcia said.

You should do this no matter how your quinoa packet is labeled. These days, almost all commercially available quinoa is pre-washed. But that means very little. The definition of prewash – how strong the sprayers are, how much water is used, whether it’s done by machine or by hand, how often it’s done – is hardly ever specified and varies widely.

If you are sensitive to saponins, you might even want to soak your quinoa for a little while. The saponins work and taste like soap, so once you put the seeds in a bowl with water and whisk or mix them together, you should see swirls of bubbles floating around. Change the water several times until nothing foams; now you know the saponins are washed away.

The best uses of quinoa

The easiest way to cook quinoa is to steam it or simmer it in liquids until the seeds swell, swell, and split. As Garcia notes, “It cooks very similar to rice.”

If you choose to just steam it, you can substitute it with rice – or potatoes or pasta – to accompany any main course, like a chili or curry. The tender quinoa will serve as a sponge for salty sauces or juices. This eliminates the need to flavor it with anything other than a little salt and pepper.

You can also serve steamed quinoa cold or at room temperature, turning it into a salad. At Chica, Garcia uses steamed quinoa for what she calls “a hearty and healthy salad” which she garnishes with grilled shrimp. Steamed quinoa easily intermingles with other vegetables and starches, such as grilled corn or roasted peppers, to give it crunch or another textural counterbalance. Then lightly flavor it with a drizzle or two of olive oil or a vinaigrette.

How to make the best quinoa, according to chef Lorena Garcia

Chica’s “Grilled Shrimps and Quinoa” with Beluga Lentils, Queso Fresco, Fire-Roasted Corn, Poblano Pepper and Purple Potato Sofrito.

Leftover steamed quinoa should not be discarded. Add it to a soup or any casserole dish, like a seafood cazuela or tagine, where another grain like couscous is typical. Or mix it in a wok with an egg, leftover protein, and veg to make fried quinoa.

If you prefer to boil it like rice, in a rice cooker or instant pot until the liquid is absorbed, garnish it with robust, seasoned broths or zesty starters like a mirepoix or sofrito (garlic). , onions and peppers cooked until tender in olive oil). Quinoa then pairs well with lean proteins such as roast chicken, grilled fish or pan-fried steak.

Crispy quinoa for garnish

Garcia likes to use toasted quinoa as a garnish. “It’s a great ingredient for adding crunch and texture to different dishes,” she said. “At Chica, we fry it at a high temperature, which makes it nice and crisp to top our famous crispy Peruvian octopus.”

This kind of crispy counterpoint also works wonderfully on mild appetizers like guacamole, hummus, or even your favorite spinach dip. Garcia often pits his guacamole and more delicate dishes against pomegranate arils, which add a quick burst of juice. Try sprinkling fried quinoa and pomegranate seeds on items like sautéed scallops or grilled avocado for super easy but impressive presentations.

If you prefer to remove the oils or if you don’t have a way to fry at home, grill the quinoa right on the stovetop. After rinsing it, let it dry on paper towels. (In this case, however, you can also start it wet – the heat will dry it out fairly quickly.) Either way, spread it out one cup at a time in a large non-stick sauté pan. It quickly begins to pop like popcorn and turn brown. It will also smell nutty. Once cooled, store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and use it as is. There is no need to continue cooking unless you want it hot. Add it to granola, fruit, salad or yogurt for counterpoints.

If you have a lot of quinoa that you’d like to toast, spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet and place in a 375 degree oven. Just be sure to keep an eye on it, as it will burn out quickly. And be sure to move it frequently so that it browns evenly.

Bonus: Turn your oven-roasted quinoa into quinoa flour

Quinoa that has been roasted in the oven can be pulsed in a spice grinder or food processor to make gluten-free flour. Roasted and ground quinoa is excellent for breading protein and raw vegetables before putting them in the oven or deep fryer. It’s also useful as a gluten-free way to thicken sauces, soups, and gravies, or to make a roux.

In fact, making your own quinoa flour is a great way to add protein to your plant-based diet. Alternate or mix with nut flours for variations on the theme.

Of course, shortcuts are also available: you can always simply buy plain, organic, stone-ground quinoa flour. It’s usually in the baking aisle or the gluten-free section (or both). Stored in the refrigerator, it lasts up to two years and is ideal for baking gluten-free treats.

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