Sunday, January 3, 2010

Keen for quinoa

Ah, vacation is finally over. Although knowing I have to return to the cubicle tomorrow is harrowing, I'm happy to at least have a semblance of a schedule again. This past week has consisted of mainly food, wearing pajamas for the better part of the day, and then more food. It was the ultimate test for my digestive system: Chinese, burritos and pizza out, smears of Brie and cheesy artichoke spread, sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil, and a mountain of desserts (cookies and more cookies, a melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce, chocolate souffles). It was over-indulgence at its worst (or best, dependent on how you look at it). And I feel good. Imagine that.

The downside? I feel I need to go through food detox. Last night I decided to empty out my produce drawer and just eat cleaner and I devised - I am pleased to say - a devilishly good recipe while at it. I'm crazy for couscous, but just recently bought quinoa, which I swear is having it's heyday right about now (when I was just mastering how to pronounce it, my coworkers were having it for dinner). Listen up, Crohnies: quinoa (keen-wa) is packed with protein (12-18%) and easy on the digestive system. And it makes good dinner conversation: it's ancient and has been an important food component in South America's diet for over 6,000 years. The Incans were gaga over this stuff - they thought it was sacred, even - and called it "the mother of all grains". Fill my plate, why don'tcha?!

So instead of bowing down to the alter of Oreos and pancakes, I thought I'd give it a go. Here is a recipe I devised and I swear up and down it's fresh, delicious, and hits the spot if you're pining for a bit of greenery in ye olde diet. It definitely has summer undertones (Matt called it "cool and refreshing"), and a Greek vibe as the dressing I concocted has feta and red wine vinegar. I guess I'm not so sick of cheese, after all. Serves 4.

Kathryn's Keen for Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • dash salt
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peelings (then eat the core or feed it to the dog)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup baby or regular red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, julienned
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced baby portobella or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 oz. feta cheese (reserved)
  • Italian parsley, to garnish
  • 1 small onion, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tb. dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 oz. feta cheese (Purchase a 4 oz. container and use half for the dressing, and half to end to the salad later.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a medium pot and add quinoa and dash of salt. Turn temperature to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and quinoa is softened. Fluff with fork and put quinoa in a bowl and refrigerate.

While quinoa is cooking, combine vegetables and set aside.

For the dressing: using the pot in which you cooked the quinoa, saute red onion in one Tb. olive oil until softened. Add the onion, and all remaining ingredients except for the olive oil to a food processor or blender. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until combined. Taste and adjust herbs and salt and pepper.

Add veggies, about 3/4 cup of dressing (more or less according to preference), and remaining feta cheese to the cooled quinoa and mix. Garnish with Italian parsley and serve.

*Note: Dressing recipe makes about a cup and a half of Greek dressing. Refrigerate remainder and use for salads.

I will never tire of photos of fresh vegetables. Never.

It's like super-charged couscous.

Why all the Dijon mustard? Because I like a little bite in my dressing!

I'm definitely going to make this for summer BBQs and picnics. Make it a meal with marinated and grilled shrimp (which I'm planning on doing immediately, let me tell you), or serve as a side dish.

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