Q: My packet of red quinoa says to wash the quinoa multiple times then rinse before cooking. What's the difference?
--Anthony Pioppi, Middletown, Conn.
A: It's always good to hear from a former newspaper colleague from Connecticut, especially one who is eating good-for-you food like quinoa, which is a seed but is often treated like a grain. The red quinoa, as you told me in a later email, came from Eden Foods. I called the Clinton, Mich.-based company to find out why the instructions call for "wash several times in cold water, rinse."
Wendy Esko, Eden's director of marketing research, says this wash/rinse direction applies to many grains as well as quinoa. Place the food in a bowl, pour in cold water, swish it around by hand and pour of the rinsing water. That process gets rid of any dust or sediment floating atop the water. Rinsing the quinoa or grain in a fine mesh strainer will remove any of the heavier particles that might have settled to the bottom of the washing bowl, she says.
There are two other reasons for washing or rinsing quinoa: Flavor and texture. There's a natural coating on the seeds, called saponin, which can make the quinoa taste bitter if not washed away, says Vandana Sheth of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes instructor and a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As for texture, unrinsed quinoa can also have a slightly soapy feel, she says.
I myself would probably skip the washing in a bowl step because I know I'll lose too many quinoa seeds in the pouring off process — that always happens when I'm preparing rice. I would go right to the rinsing, as does Emma Christensen, recipe editor at TheKitchn.com. She suggested in a recent story published in the Chicago Tribune that the quinoa be placed in a fine-mesh strainer and rinsed thoroughly with cool water for 2 minutes.
"Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Drain," she instructs.
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