I can hear you now. Keen-what?
A highly nutritious and gluten free seed, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is originally from the Andean region of South America. It has a mild, slightly nutty flavor that makes it a great substitute for rice or couscous. Quinoa is packed with nutrition; it's an exceptional source of protein, containing all eight amino acids, which makes it an excellent option for people looking to reduce their consumption of meat. It's a good source of dietary fiber and contains B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It's easy to prepare, tastes great, gluten free, and very versatile.
One note, check the package! If the quinoa you purchase isn't pre-rinsed, you must rinse it in a fine sieve to remove the bitter-tasting saponins.
I'm the kind of cook who opens the refrigerator and asks, "What's for dinner?" This recipe is perfect for me as I have used any combination of the veggies listed below to prepare this salad. Whatever is on hand, that's what I use.
First, cook the quinoa:
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil
Add 1 ½ cups of quinoa
Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for five minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your vegetables. Choose at least three of the veggies listed below, four is better, five is YUM! The mix of cooked and raw vegetables adds to the great texture of this delicious salad.
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered and chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 cup fresh broccoli florets, raw or lightly sautéed in olive oil
1 cup carrot, raw, shredded
1 cup leeks, sliced and lightly sautéed in olive oil
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, raw
1 small jar of marinated baby beets, drained
1 cup fresh cauliflower, raw or lightly sautéed in olive oil
¼ cup sliced scallions
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1 cup red, yellow, or green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 or 2 small zucchini, quartered and chopped, raw or lightly sautéed
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced thin
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup snow peas, raw
1 cup fresh asparagus, chopped (raw if it's thin, or lightly steamed if it's thick)
You get the idea! Any vegetable will work. Use whatever you like.
Other (optional) ingredients I've used (choose 1 nut/seed and/or 1 cheese):
½ cup of walnut pieces
½ cup pecan pieces
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pine nuts
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Ingredients I always use in this salad:
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced fine
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough bottled salad dressing to moisten ingredients. I prefer Wish Bone Robusto Italian, but I've also used Good Seasons Italian (follow package directions), Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette. If you're on a diet, use 'light' salad dressing.
Stir together the quinoa, parsley, salt, pepper, and your choice of vegetables/nuts/seeds in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature, or chill for several hours. I always get rave reviews when I bring this salad to potluck dinners or family gatherings. Enjoy!