Saturday, September 12, 2009

cold quinoa salad

Summer is not over yet! (I won't believe it!) Though this morning is the first time I've seen rain in California for a couple of months, the temperature remains warm. The sunshine will be back soon, I'm positive (and hopeful).

I made this salad last week when we were having a stretch of hot days and I couldn't stand heating up the house or eating anything warm. It was one of those occasions when I didn't know exactly what I would make when I started the process - I scanned the cupboards and fridge to figure out what we had on hand that could be turned into a meal. I was hesitant about the nuts and sundried tomatoes at first, but went ahead and included them. I was glad I did: both brought great flavor and texture diversity to the dish. I will definitely make this again.

One thing I realized as I picked the labels for this post is that this is only my second post featuring quinoa. I find that surprising, since it's the grain component of our meals on a fairly regular basis. Quinoa is one of those foods I wasn't familiar with prior to moving to California. I encountered it for the first time at Google and have been a big fan ever since. The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health says that quinoa is "arguably the most nutritious of the grains". It contains vitamins E, B2, B3, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, zinc, fiber, and protein. Bonus: it's gluten free. It has a slightly nutty flavor and can be used in place of rice in most dishes. I think I'd go so far as to classify it as my favorite grain. Stay tuned for more quinoa posts.

Cold Quinoa Salad
Serves 3-4

1 c. red or white quinoa
2 c. water
3 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. mint leaves, finely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, sliced then quartered
1 handful pistachios
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped
balsamic vinegar and olive oil
feta (if desired)

Ahead of time: Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Cool in fridge until you are ready to make salad. Alternative: if you're making the salad all at once, spread the quinoa on a plate and stick it in the freezer while you chop and combine other ingredients.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle balsamic and oil over salad (I used about 3 Tbsp. of each) and mix well. Top with feta if desired.

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