Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad



Quinoa is back on the menu again. I have ignored this versatile grain far too long, reaching past the three-pound package sitting on a pantry shelf as I grabbed other items. But it is ignored no longer. This month that fluffy, protein-filled pseudo-grain has starred in a stuffed pepper recipe. It worked so well that I was ready for something more. More, but different. 

Next I cooked a pot of quinoa, added various ingredients that we like, mixing sweet and tart flavors, and raided the refrigerator for more inspiration. Lemons, of course, lemons must be part of the mix. Friend Tanya had just gifted me another bag of gigantic Arizona lemons from her orchard in Yuma. These Southwestern lemons are something special, incredibly juicy and somehow more lemony than any of the puny, local grocery offerings.  



Photo: the puny lemon on the bottom right is the grocery store product
The dressing began with a 2:1:1 blend of Greek olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar and lemon juice. Taste, adjust, taste, tweak it a bit more... I probably ate an entire serving's worth in taste tests but it was worth it. The resulting salad was delicious. How good is delicious? Well, RL reluctantly  sampled a small serving, and then... Wait for it... asked for a second helping. 




We have enjoyed that quinoa salad recipe over several days in a number of ways and it has not lost its appeal. Serve it on a lunch salad plate.


Fill an avocado or even an avocado shell .





This is not a new idea. Similar recipes are found all over the web, and I must have skimmed a few at one time or another, but this version just... happened. Okay, just now I Googled "quinoa salad" and found over 13 million hits. 13 million! There's something going on here. Beyond the fact that quinoa is a complete protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids, is gluten-free and cholesterol-free and usually organic, has a lot of fiber and cooks in 10 to 15 minutes which is quick compared to most grains - beyond all that, quinoa is incredibly versatile and adapts to a wide range of flavors and cuisines. 

Hmmmm, what's next? What is your favorite quinoa recipe?




Quinoa Mediterranean Salad
4 generous servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed & drained

1 3/4 cups water (or broth)

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup sultanas or raisins
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar or orange juice
1 sweet red bell pepper (or several multi-colored minis)
3-4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 generous Tbs capers, rinsed
zest of one fat lemon
1/8 cup fresh mint leaves, rough chopped
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
1/4 cup or more mild feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing:

4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (more or less to taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Cook the quinoa as directed on the package, resisting any urge to lift the lid while it cooks. Fluff with a fork and turn out into a medium bowl to cool.
  2. Add the dried fruit and 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar to a small cup and warm in the microwave. Set aside while the fruit plumps.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon if it seems flat, or a touch of warmed honey if it is too tart.
  4. Add the chopped peppers, green onions, pine nuts, capers, lemon zest, mint leaves and parsley to the cooled quinoa. Add the now-plumped dried fruit to the mix and gently toss all to mix. Add the dressing, one large spoonful at a time, tossing as you go. Again, taste and adjust. 
  5. Top with the crumbled feta cheese and serve.
Note: The flavors will blend over time, some will brighten while others recede. I tend to add more mint on following days, or a sprinkle more lemon zest. 

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