Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quinoa Salad (two ways)

This is a super-healthy grain salad that I recycled for breakfast the next morning by baking it in a ramekin topped a couple eggs at 375°F for 15 minutes. But you need the the base recipe, which could be served as a side dish or a one-dish vegetarian meal, before you can do that.

Quinoa Salad
(Serves 4-8 depending on serving size)

1.5 cups raw quinoa (I used half traditional and half red)
6 cups water
1 packet Italian salad dressing seasoning mix
1 bell pepper (any color but green, chopped)
1 zucchini (chopped)
2 shallots (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 lemons (juice from one, zest from both)
1 block feta cheese
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (leaves only, rough chopped)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
salt and pepper

1. Rinse the quinoa several times in a fine-mesh strainer. Change the water at least three times and agitate the grains with your hand to remove as much of the outer coating as posisble. Raw quinoa is coated with saponin; if the final product tastes at all bitter or unpleasant, you'll know you didn't wash it throughly enough before cooking.

2. Add the washed quinoa, seasoning packet and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa has turned translucent and released the spiraled germ.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, wash chop the vegetables, crumble the feta cheese, and zest and juice the lemons. This can all be combined and set aside.

4. Ater cooking the quinoa, spread it out in a large metal bowl and stir occassionally to release most of the heat.

5. When the quinoa is cool enough that it won't melt the feta, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning and add olive oil if desired. Serve at room temp for the most flavor. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Some notes:
- Quinoa is a unique grain because it contains a lot of protein. And not only that, but it is an unusually complete protein, making it perfect for vegetarian meals. If you can't find it in your regular grocery store, try a health-food store for this very reason.

- Parsley is more than a garnish in this dish because it prevents water-retention and has a lot of vitamin C. Oh, and it tastes good too... Ever had tabbouleh? Just be aware that large amounts aren't reccommended during pregnancy because it "stimulates the womb."

- Omit the olive oil at the end for a lighter version. The dish doesn't need it for flavor, but for a one-dish meal, I like to include it because it's a healthy fat (monounsaturated) that makes the meal more satisfying. You can also adjust the amount of feta for similar reasons, but its fat (saturated) isn't near as healthy.

- Raw garlic... Garlic has a plethora of nutritive properties—it's anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, prevents cancer, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and does several other great things for the body. The catch? You have to eat it raw and some people can't stand its harsh taste. So adjust the amount if you must, but try to acclimate yourself to its taste because it's a simple way to keep your body healthy. Onions have a lot of the same properties too, particularly shallots and red and yellow onions.

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