Red Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Red Quinoa and Asparagus Salad
Quinoa comes in a rainbow of colors. You can even find a packaged blend in rainbow colors. When cooked, each color is slightly different from the other in texture and flavor. I find white quinoa is the best substitute for rice and it cooks a little faster than the others.

Red quinoa, in today’s recipe, works really well because it has a rich nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Check the package to see if the quinoa is pre-washed. If not, wash the quinoa in several changes of water to remove the bitter outer coating, before cooking. You can buy quinoa at Wegmans or Trader Joe’s. You can also purchase it on line from Amazon.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa? Please share your comments on my blog or on my Facebook page.

Red Quinoa and Asparagus Salad
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1 cup red quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch asparagus, (about one pound)
5 radishes, cut into matchsticks
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
5 oz (142 g) sweet baby lettuce (or lettuce of your choice)

Cut the asparagus on bias into 1-inch pieces. Blanch the asparagus in a pot of salted, boiling water, for three minutes. Drop into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Wash the quinoa in a sieve under running water, until the water runs clear. Drain. Add the quinoa and stock into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to the lowest point, cover with a lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. Cool.

Juice and zest the lemon and add to a large bowl. Add asparagus, radish, tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the quinoa and toss to combine. Chill for five minutes.

Put a large handful of baby lettuce on a plate and top with the red quinoa and asparagus salad. No dressing required.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad
I’ve been attending cooking classes at Sur la Table and the first class I attended was called, “Healthy Mediterranean Cooking.” Chef Bradley Curtis was a superb teacher. Not only did he share several easy and healthy dishes, but he taught us good knife skills and introduced us to spices and herbs from around the world. I was excited to learn how to use Moroccan preserved lemons and Northwest African harissa. I could not wait to get home so I could use these two ingredients in my recipes, and this salad was my first creation.

I used quinoa because it is an excellent source of iron, phosphorus, fiber, and riboflavin. It is gluten-free and one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein. Doctors and nutritionists call it a “super grain.” A natural soap-like substance, that is bitter, covers each grain. It is said that the bitter taste deters birds and insects from eating it. So, that also means it is low in pesticides.

Spring is here and it’s a good time to get back on track on eating right. Here’s a salad that’s “super” good!

Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 Minutes
Serves: 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 seedless English cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup finely chopped green onions, white parts only
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoons pumpkin/sunflower seeds, (optional)
1 tablespoons dry cranberries, (optional)
1 tablespoon raisins, (optional)

Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin. If it is not washed, the grains taste bitter or soapy. So, rinse the quinoa well under cold water and drain. It helps to use a fine mesh sieve to do this. Boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, but an additional rinse doesn’t hurt. Put the rinsed quinoa into a saucepan and add vegetable broth or water. The quinoa to broth/water ratio is 1:2. Add a little salt if you are not using broth.

Cover and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, turn the heat to low. The lid should be slightly ajar, to prevent boiling over. Simmer for 20 minutes. It’s just like cooking rice. The grains get a bit transparent when it is cooked, except for a little spiral sprout. Use a fork to fluff it up and then let it cool.

Once the quinoa comes to room temperature, put it into a large bowl. Add cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro. Set aside and make the dressing.

Ingredients for dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 tablespoons harissa, (depending on heat and your preference)
1 small Moroccan preserved lemon, rind only, rinsed and finely chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions for the dressing:
Whisk lemon juice, honey, harissa, preserved lemon, pepper, and salt in a small non-reactive bowl. Heat olive oil in a small non-stick pan and when it shimmers add cumin seeds and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. Cool and drizzle the seasoned oil into the rest of the ingredients that are in the small bowl. Whisk vigorously.

To finish the salad:
Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetables. Toss gently. Cover and let stand at room temperature for one hour. It can also be kept in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and raisins just before you serve.

Note on how to use Moroccan preserved lemon: Remove lemon from the bottle with clean utensils to avoid contaminating the inside of the jar. This way, the remaining contents of the jar will not need to be refrigerated. Rinse the lemon under cold water to remove excess salt. Cut the lemon in quarters. Scoop off the insides. With a sharp knife remove the pith. Dice the lemon rind into small 1/8-inch cubes or finely chop.
Quinoa salad Harissa2