Thursday, July 21, 2011

Atoning for the Fried Food

What do you eat the day after having a meal chock full of fried?  Something on the light side.  Balance.

I had a sort of craving for a quinoa salad.  "Quinoa?" you say?  Oui.  Prounounced keen-wah, it's an ancient grain from South America.  The Incas used to eat it.  And what's good for the Incas is good for me. Or y'know, this is just really tasty.

It's an incredible source of protein considering it's a wee bitty grain, and it has all 8 amino acids.  That's gotta be good for you right?  It's gluten free for those who can't tolerate the stuff, and on top of that it's incredibly versatile.  You can eat it as a salad like I did or use it as a filling in different dishes.  It goes well with a variety of flavors AND you can make big batches of it to freeze and pull out whenever you need 'em.  Handy, no?

So given the nutritional bounty available from quinoa and the fact that I actually like it, I made a yummy little salad full of fresh vegetables and a little fruit.  Avocados are fruit aren't they?

Anyhow, I started by preparing my quinoa according to the package's instructions.  Do yourself a favor and get pre-washed quinoa.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil

When the water is boiling, add 1 cup of quinoa.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes.

For the veg...
De-kernelize one corn.  Or more if you like.

Toss it in a pan with a tablespoon of canola oil

Give half a bell pepper a large dice

Add it to the corn along with the pepper of your choosing.  We had a horn pepper hanging around.  Honestly, I'd never seen a horn pepper before.  It was in the process of turning from green to red, so it wasn't the prettiest color I'd ever seen.  It provided a subtle heat that I really liked.  It didn't punch you in the face y'know?  Anyhow, I left the seeds and membranes in since my mom said it wasn't terribly hot to begin with.  If you're averse to heat, take out the seeds and membranes or leave out the pepper altogether.

Some minced garlic and half a large tomato (or a medium one) round things out

Just let that go for a bit, stirring it around every once in a while.

I made a lime not-quite-vinaigrette for a dressing.  I juiced two limes with my handy juicer, added salt and pepper, and 1/2 tsp cumin, although I would've been okay using more.  Whisk in a little olive oil and voila!  Almost-vinaigrette.  I say almost because I didn't use the proportions that make it a real vinaigrette.  I wanted the tang of the lime to be really bright in the salad.

When the quinoa has absorbed all the water, take it off the heat and fluff it with a fork.  Yes, fluff it.  Transfer it to a large bowl.

Pour the veggies in the bowl with the quinoa.  Time for the avocado!  Cut the avocado around the pit and twist it firmly but gently to separate the halves.  If you've got a large knife, give the pit a good whack with the knife so it sticks in the pit.  Give it a twist and the pit should come out easily.  Don't cut your hand off or anything though.

Slice the flesh vertically and horizontally without cutting through the skin.  If the avocado is nice and ripe the flesh will come out easily.  You can use a spoon if it needs a little encouragement.

My mom bought this peppercorn feta at The Pig.  Yummmm.  Sprinkle a little (or a lot) on the quinoa.  Of course regular feta can be used if you can't find awesome peppercorn feta.  Cotija cheese would also be nice in this.

Purty!  Drizzle the lime almost-vinaigrette over it.  The citrus keeps the avocado from turning brown, even the next day.  Toss it together and you're done!  It'll serve at least 4 as a side dish.

The corn has a sweetness to it, the avocado is wonderfully creamy, the pepper gives some heat, the feta a nice salty bite, and the lime brightens everything.  I ate two bowls for dinner.  No joke.  It's also good cold the next day for lunch.  I should know.

Easy Quinoa Salad (serves 4)

1 c quinoa
2 c water
1 tbs canola oil
1 corn, kernels removed
1/2 bell pepper
Hot pepper (jalapeño, serrano, horn, etc) to taste
1/2 large tomato (or 1 medium),  large dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 avocado, diced
Feta to taste

For lime almost-vinaigrette:
2 limes, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cumin

  • Boil water and add quinoa.  Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tbs canola oil.  Add corn and cook ~5 minutes.  Add bell pepper, hot pepper, tomato, and garlic.  Continue cooking another 10-15 minutes.
  • Fluff quinoa with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.  Add hot vegetables and avocado to quinoa.  Drizzle lime mixture over quinoa and add feta.  Give it a good toss.  Serve warm.

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