Quinoa Salad keeps me out of trouble. Hello, my name is Amanda, and I am a carb addict. I am not one to sit down to grilled chicken and a green salad and call it dinner. Lunch, maybe. If I’m honest, I really want fresh ciabatta bread, toasty out of the oven, with a glossy bowl of good olive oil for dipping. Too frequently, I indulge my carb-aholic, starchy fantasies. However, in an effort to not buy jeans in a bigger size, we put Quinoa in place of Ciabatta on pretty regular basis. Quinoa is obviously still a carb, but its high protein content and all around better nutritional profile make it a far better choice and it satisfies my need for something to be on that plate to keep the grilled chicken and green salad company.
One of my favorite quinoa salads is inspired by a recipe from Jill and Jewels Elmore’s cookbook The Family Chef. If you are trying to clean up your eating act- pick up a copy. In case you need convincing that these girls know their stuff- they cook for Jennifer Aniston. Just saying…
Back to the kitchen. Most package directions call for a 2-1 ratio of water to quinoa, which practically turns it to mush. A better ratio is 1-1 or 1.5-1. I personally like 1 1/2 C water to 1 cup quinoa. You could also use the pasta method- cook it in plenty of water and drain off excess when done to your preference. If you are interested in why the package gives you wrong info – check it out here. Otherwise, you can take our word for it and get back to cooking.
First, rinse the quinoa-really well. I used to wonder exactly why and I found the answer on AncientGrains.com “Quinoa has a natural coating of saponins, a chemical compound that can be found in many different plant families (including some legumes and yucca.)* These saponins (so named for their ability to foam like soap) may exist to protect the plant against microbes and fungi as well as foraging animals, as their bitter taste deters other organisms from feeding off the plant. However, this bitter taste can also be evident to humans – and some people are very sensitive to the flavor saponins impart.”
Now that we know why- rinse and repeat.
Now, let’s gather up our cast of characters, shall we? Today, it’s fennel, shallot, garlic, lime & lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, arugula and grape tomatoes.
The possibilities for this quinoa salad are endless. You can add roasted veggies, nuts, dried berries, different herbs, whatever blows your skirt up. It’s also a spectacular way to transform last night’s leftovers into a not so ho-hum lunch. I do tend to get stuck in rut sometimes, so if you make this- please leave your version in the comments. We would love to try it!