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Quinoa, which originated in South America, is the seed of a leafy plant that’s related to spinach. It can substitute rice and most grains in side dishes, salads, soups, and even in puddings. It has a slightly crunchy texture, and it tastes similar to couscous.
Its tiny ivory-coloured beads are coated with a bitter resin called saponin that can be easily removed before cooking, by rinsing thoroughly under cold running water.
Quinoa has a higher nutritive value than any other grain: It abounds in proteins, it is a good source of fibre and, as it is gluten-free, it is good news for people suffering from celiac disease.
Nowadays, it is easily available in the organic foods section at many supermarkets.
Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on May 5, 2007.