Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring's A Great Time for Quinoa Veggie Salad

I'm not much on grains in my low-carb life, but am fond of a bit of quinoa mixed 
with veggies  and fresh herbs in a lemony dressing.
I've pretty much given up most grains, but sometimes I crave the "tooth/mouth feel" of little bits of neutral crunch pepped up with citrus and garlic and lots of veggies and herbs. Quinoa is more virtuous than many grains as it's high protein and also loaded with fiber, iron and other nutrients. An ulterior motive for cooking up some quinoa is that we're headed soon to visit our son and daughter-in-law, who is about to pop our second grandchild. She's a vegetarian and I will be cooking. I need to practice! 

Spring is also a good time for a good mood. What with all the color and fragrance and soft, sweet air, and streams rushing with snow melt, and forsythia, cherry and plum trees blooming, and spinach and kale in the cold frame, it reminds us that life begins anew, without fail, every spring. We can count on it, and face it, there's not that much delight promised by the universe. Spring is a given and a gift.

When I die, I hope it will be in spring and my ashes can be troweled into a garden, which may result in tastier tomatoes and greener kale. When you reach a certain age, you are encouraged to fill out forms that inform your loved ones how you would like to be treated as you deteriorate and how you would like to be disposed of when the time comes. Garden, please, however ghoulish you may find that to be. And don't spend any money if you can help it.

Here's a quick, easy, delicious quinoa/veggie salad recipe followed by some recent garden pix.

Quinoa Spring Salad
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked (makes 2 cups cooked. directions below)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds or roasted pine nuts
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (I used the last of the 2012 frozen corn.)
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (flat-leafed Italian preferred)
  • 2 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • thin slivers of spinach and/or kale, a generous handful
  • 3 tbsp chopped onion, or 3 scallions, sliced
  • 3 tbsp chopped sweet red or yellow sweet pepper
  • two or three large whole spinach or kale leaves as a bed for the quinoa mixture
  • juice of half a lemon
  • balsamic vinegar to taste
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small cloves of mashed garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
Note: As with nearly every recipe I post, consider the ingredients as suggestions and use what you have. Don't run to the store for radishes! If you don't have fresh mint or parsley, try something else. Cilantro? Basil? Chives? Arugula? Or even dried herbs.Tinker with the dressing. I usually end up adding more lemon. We're going for tangy and tasty, not bland or sour. 
Cook the quinoa. Most recipes say to rinse it first to remove a bitter coating. I always do this, but my favorite daughter-in-law does not. She works full time at a high-powered job, reads incessantly, rises at 5 a.m. daily for exercise, has an adorable toddler who wants her attention, and does not suffer fools or fussy recipes. She says she's never tasted bitterness in her cooked quinoa and does not intend to rinse. So be it.

I have the extra 15 minutes. If rinsing, place the quinoa in a fine sieve and place it over a bowl or cooking pot so that you can cover the grain with warm water and swish it around. Let it soak for 15 minutes or up to a half hour. Drain the soaking water and pour fresh water over the quinoa before dumping the rinsed quinoa into a 2-quart cooking pot with a lid.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Bring quinoa, water and salt to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for five minutes with the lid on. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Cool.

Add all the veggies and the dressing and taste, taste, taste. Refrigerate to let flavors blend, or serve immediately. Spoon quinoa salad atop large spinach or kale leaves. We ate this with grilled salmon and served it with sliced lemon. Yum! 

Spinach and kale are going bonkers in the cold frame. 

Cold-frame spinach and kale got together with a 2012 storage onion and
discussed the dinner menu. They came up with quinoa salad. 

A parsley "bush" is mined regularly for salads. Sadly, it is a biennial
plant and will go to seed this summer

Spearmint is a blessing and a curse. It is invasive and I must rip it out
of the garden periodically, but it is available most of the year for
seasoning and, now through October, it provides abundant leaves
 for  making sun tea by the gallon.