Quinoa (keen-wah) is nothing if not trendy, but the thing is, it’s also really good and amazingly good for you as well. It looks like a grain, and we treat it like one, but it’s actually a seed related to beets, spinach and chard, making it gluten-free. Quinoa’s nutritive value is amazing. It’s a complete protein, containing all of the nine essential amino acids needed by our bodies for good health. It regularly shows up on lists of “super foods”, with good reason.
Quinoa is a great base for salads. Warm or cold. Savory or sweet.
Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
1. Chop a combination of root vegetables into bite sized pieces. Whatever you have on hand. Maybe a carrot, a parsnip, a sweet potato, a baby turnip or two, some pieces of butternut squash or a few Brussels sprouts. Toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast at 400 for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender. Set aside to cool somewhat.
2. Following the directions on the package, cook the quinoa. Don’t skip the rinse part! One cup dry quinoa to two cups water. Let cool to lukewarm.
3. Make a lemon vinaigrette using 1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 C olive oil. 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and a minced clove of garlic (optional.)
4. Combine the roasted vegetables and about 1 1/2 C warm quinoa in a bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette. Use just enough to moisten. Sprinkle with chopped scallions if you like.
5. Delicious warm or at room temperature. Makes a great and surprisingly filling lunch.
A Sweeter Alternative
1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package, Let cool.
2. Prep the following and toss everything into a bowl:
Peel and chop an apple (sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.)
Slice ( at an angle) one or two stalks of celery.
Shred a carrot.
Slice about half of a small sweet or red onion.
1/4 to 1/3 C of dried cranberries or cherries
Handful of roasted sunflower seeds or toasted pine nuts or walnuts
3. For the dressing: Take about a 1/2 C of hummus (store bought or your own) and thin it out with some fresh lemon juice. Add a little maple syrup or honey for sweetness and a splash of apple cider vinegar for tartness. Maybe a little salt? A little pepper? Taste as you go. More sweetness? More tartness? It’s a dressing, so it should be relatively thin, but not too thin. A tiny bit water to thin it out?
4. Combine about 1 1/2 C cooled quinoa with all the the other ingredients. Add enough of the dressing to coat everything and toss well. Keep the extra dressing if you want to add more later.
I haven’t tried it yet, but it just occurred to me that this salad might be really good with a poppy seed dressing. There are a number of good recipes on line that I think I’ll check out and try at another time.