Q: I’ve been seeing something called “quinoa” recommended as a healthy side dish. What is it and what would I do with it?
A: Quinoa – pronounced “KEEN-wah” – is considered and used like a whole grain, although technically it’s a seed, not a true whole grain such as brown rice, bulgur (whole wheat) and oatmeal. Unlike most grains, it’s a good source of protein, so it’s a perfect choice as you experiment with smaller meat portions and meatless meals. In just 15 minutes it can be cooked like rice to serve as a fluffy side dish or incorporated in soups and stews instead of pasta or potatoes. Each grain is naturally coated with a bitter substance to protect it as it grows, so put it in a sieve and rinse it before cooking. In most larger grocery stores, you can find quinoa in the same section with rice. Alternatively, you might check the “natural” foods aisle, where it may be grouped with other packaged grains or in a bulk food section.