A healthy grain salad recipe that starts with red quinoa (don't worry, regular white quinoa works too, so would another grain), a few vegetables for crunch, a sprinkle of fresh herbs for brightness, a handful of feta cheese for creaminess, all tossed in an easy vinaigrette. This will be my go-to salad for the summer, protein-packed, fiber-good and eminently variable.
Spring’s come early to Missouri this year. In the country, the redbud appears especially pink against the dark green needles of the cedars, too bad they’re invasive, the scourge of the Midwest. Here in the suburbs, the fern garden should be little more than fiddleheads, instead, full furls reach west to find full sun.
But mine’s a northern soul. When it’s 80-something already in April, the calendar feels all rushed. Slow down! I want to demand. We’ve not yet had spring and already it’s feeling a lot like July and a surly-hot summer.
The only consolation? Summer cooking is simple and spare, it takes just a spark of inspiration to throw together something for the grill, a salad from the garden, a fruity dessert. Last year I collected easy summer recipes all summer long. In 2010 already, my head and my grocery list are headed back that way. Come along, won’t you?
While our salads look not the least bit alike, mine is inspired by the red quinoa salad from Tea Austen, author of the beautiful blog Tea & Cookies and the just-published book, The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis. Step on over, she just might be your 'cup of Tea'!
RED QUINOA SALAD YOUR WAY
Time to table: 35 minutes
Makes 5 cups
ADD-INs (for example)
- 3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 8 halves sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in thin lengths
- 8 halves dried apricots, sliced in thin lengths
- Half an English cucumber, diced small
- 8 olives, halved
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 - 4 tablespoons good vinegar
- 1 tablespoon good mustard
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh greens for serving
QUINOA Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa and cook on medium heat until the quinoa fully cooks and the water cooks off, 15 – 20 minutes. If needed, drain. Stir a bit to help cool.
ADD-INs Prep the vegetables and collect in a large bowl. For the moment, leave the feta aside.
VINAIGRETTE In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients.
SERVE & SAVOR Stir the quinoa into the vegetables, add the vinaigrette and gently stir in the feta. Best served immediately but can be refrigerated to serve later, but save the feta to stir in just before serving. Serve atop fresh greens.
What Is Red Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is a high-protein grain that originates in the Andes Mountains of Peru although these days is raised across the world. It cooks quickly and is easily digestible, it's also gluten-free and considered a complete protein. It comes in two variations, red and white. While I love the drama of red quinoa's nutty-red color, it tastes just like the easier-to-find white quinoa. Red quinoa is just now showing up in St. Louis, I've found it at Global Foods in Kirkwood. Otherwise, look for regular quinoa beside other grains at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and natural food stores. If your grocer carries Bob's Red Mill, look for quinoa there, or ask your grocer to order it. For more information about healthy grains, see this great guide to grains from Culinate.
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