~Blogged while watching Grosse Point Blank~
Lets talk about Quinoa. Its a great grain. Really, a superior grain. Quinoa is closely related to the Spinach family. It packs a full 12 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving (vs wild brown rice which comes in at 3 grams per half cup). The taste of quinoa will take on what you cook it in. Cook it in veggie or chicken stock for a savory flavor, coconut water for a sweeter taste, or plain water if you want to season the quinoa after cooking. It is so healthy and so versatile. Use it in salads, side dishes or as breakfast cereal. Truly packed with nutrition and possibility. Some people are initially put off by the texture but its easy to get used to and start incorporating it into your menus as a healthy alternative to rices and cereals. Quinoa is your friend, I promise.
As soon as summer begins I start making this salad. Its cool and refreshing, nice as a side dish or as a complete meal. Its got protein, healthy fats, antioxidants and all of the wonderful things you can put into your body. This is one of the foods I categorize in my mind under "guilt free" because its so very good for you.
The first step in this recipe is to start the quinoa (if you're familiar with cooking it skip on to the next paragraph). The total cooking time will be about 20 minutes which is just about enough time to do the rest of the chopping and mixing. The rule of thumb with this grain is a ration of 2:1 liquid (vegetable stock here) to dry quinoa. Follow the directions on the package regarding rinsing and soaking your quinoa. A lot will recommend soaking it in the liquid for 15 minutes prior to cooking but I skip that step entirely and mine turns out just fine. Quinoa starts out as small looking hard beads and then they become translucent and sprout their grain as they cook. You'll know its finished when it looks like the pic on the right:
While the quinoa is cooking start the chopping. Its a lot of chopping so get yourself a glass or wine or whatever makes you happy and settle in. It's worth it. So worth it. (occasionally stir your quinoa during the chopping shenanigans, if all of the liquid evaporates before all of the quinoa has sprouted its fine to add a little water, about 1/4 cup at a time and keep cooking).
This is an optional step in the process but I love to chop up spinach and throw it in. The additional calcium and vitamins are worth the effort, and frankly, I just feel healthier when I eat green things. If you want to include this, use about 2 cups of baby spinach (although any spinach will do) and just chop it up. I've previously put it in a food processor as well which works great, though Ive found the extra time spent chopping is less than food processor clean up. Its all about time efficiency. Less time cooking -- more time eating and socializing.
Once your chopping is finished check the quinoa. It should be finished or close to it and now is the time to remove it from the heat and let it cool. While its cooling put together your dressing. The only tip I have here is to zest the lemon, then juice it. The other day I accidentally juiced it first. Zesting half of a squished lemon is like....well, zesting half of a squished lemon and no fun at all (and definitely not time efficient!)
Once the quinoa is cooled and the dressing is finished its time to mix it all up! Throw it in a bowl and go to town. Then come the four most important words in cooking...."taste and adjust seasoning". Taste it and do just that, add salt, pepper, cilantro and anything else that makes it taste good to you! No recipe is perfect for everyone so this is a critical step in the cooking process. This is where you really learn to be a chef. Taste and adjust. Love it. For the best result, let the flavors get together and chill in the fridge for an hour or two, but don't feel bad if you can't resist eating it right away.
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. agave nectar
1/2 tsp. cumin
dash of salt and pepper
Hope you enjoy this recipe! Feel free to message me with questions or comments.
Please keep in touch this week, we have an exciting blog coming up about one of my favorite nights out...along with our first giveaway...tickets to that evening! Stay tuned!