Tag Archives: quinoa

Dilly Quinoa Salad with Radish and Dates

6 Sep

Imagine yourself among a sea of people (2600 to be exact) dressed in white from head to toe, feasting al fresco on a homemade picnic in a public space (whose location was a mystery until you arrived by bus moments earlier). After the sun sets, sparklers are lit en masse to mark the opening of the dance floor where guests dance the evening away alongside a DJ spinning the latest hits. At the end of the night, you pack up your table, chairs (yes, you bring your own!) and all of your belongings and leave the space cleaner than it was when you arrived.

Sounds bizarre, right?!? That took place a few weeks ago at Diner en Blanc Toronto 2016, an annual event that first originated in Paris over 25 years ago. The whole concept is outright crazy. But it was pretty magical.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Guests have the option of purchasing a gourmet catered picnic meal but most choose to pack their own. Since it was a weeknight, a meal simple to prepare and transport was a must. We also wanted a meal that could be served at room temperature because as newbies, we had no idea how long it would be before we would eat. Cold poached salmon seemed like an easy yet elegant protein option with quinoa salad and steamed green beans as accompaniments. Since my favourite quinoa salad recipes tend to feature strong flavours that could overpower the delicate fish, a quick Google search led me to a recipe so unusual I had to try it.

This quinoa salad features dill and cucumber (nothing special), radish (definitely not something I would think to add on my own), and dates (what?!). Yes that’s right— syrupy sweet dates. Parmesan cheese was listed as optional, so we left it out because we would be feasting on a spread of cheese as our starter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was reluctant to try this recipe but the reviews were good and it was the perfect way to use up leftover dill from the salmon dish.

The salad was everything that I hoped it would be. Fresh and clean in taste thanks to loads of dill, with a nice balance of sweetness and peppery bite from the dates and radish respectively. It complemented the poached salmon perfectly in flavour and texture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If I were to make this again, I might substitute raisins or currants for the dates as the sweetness was a bit overpowering. Or, I would try it with a different kind of date. I did some research after the fact and learned that date varieties (of which there are many!) vary in sweetness. Between the two most popular types of dates in North America, the Medjool date (which I used) is considerably sweeter than the Deglet Noor date. I guess I should have done my date research first!

Any suggestions on what to do with leftover dates? I’ve got my eye on this recipe.

dsc_0187-2

Quinoa Salad with Dill, Radish and Dates
(adapted from The Kitchn)

I made this recipe a bit more waistline-friendly by reducing the amount of olive oil, dates and almonds. I also omitted the parmesan and avocado. AND I didn’t have liquid smoke. But it was still delicious!

1 cup quinoa
1-3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
8 small red radishes, well-cleaned and tops removed
1/3 seedless English cucumber, about 1/4 pound, unpeeled
1 large shallot
2/3 lightly filled cup dill fronds, without stems
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced, about 1 1/2 tablespoons
3 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke*
1/2 1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 1/3 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped (look for the Deglet Noor variety)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (omit for a vegan adaptation)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado, to serve

  1. If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, rinse the quinoa for 2 to 3 minutes in a fine mesh strainer, rubbing vigorously. Drain. Heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and spread the cooked quinoa over it in an even layer. Let cool while preparing the vegetables.
  3. Toast almonds in a pan over low-medium heat until aromatic and golden in colour.
  4. Dice the radishes — about 1/4-inch to a side. Do the same with the cucumber. Finely dice the shallot. Finely chop the dill fronds. Toss with the quinoa in a large bowl.
  5. Zest the lemon right into the bowl and fold in the zest. Juice the lemon half and whisk the juice together with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and liquid smoke until emulsified and thick. Toss this with the quinoa.
  6. Fold in the almonds, chopped dates, and Parmesan (if using). Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, top with chopped avocado (if using).

*Note: 1 tablespoon smoked olive oil, such as The Smoked Olive’s Sonoma oil, can be substituted for the liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving (with modifications as outlined above): 225 kcal, 10 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 28.5 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fibre, 4.2 g protein, 210 mg sodium

You say Quinoa, I say Millet

28 Apr

Quinoa has created quite the buzz over the past couple of years.  It’s commonly labeled with terms such as ‘Superfood,’ ‘High in Protein,’ ‘Gluten-Free,’ and the like.  Even the United Nations is in on the fad, declaring 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

Don’t get me wrong, I love quinoa and think it’s a great food. But I also believe there are ample pseudo-grains (quinoa is technically a seed) that deserve the same attention that quinoa has received in recent years.

My biggest qualm with the nutritional benefits bestowed upon quinoa is its reputation for being a protein powerhouse.  Yes, quinoa is a complete protein based on its amino acid profile, but the quantities of several amino acids obtained in a standard serving are minimal.  Furthermore, quinoa contains little to no more protein than other grains.  Quinoa should be chosen as a grain option, not as a protein replacement.  If you’re a vegetarian, include legumes or soy-based foods (e.g. tofu, tempeh, edamame) in combination with quinoa for a healthy, balanced meal.

A rarely discussed benefit is its lower carbohydrate content (and in turn, calorie content) compared to other grains, making it an ideal choice for diabetics or for those struggling with weight management.

The nutritional profile of quinoa compared to other grains (or pseudo-grains) can be seen in the below table.  It’s clear that quinoa is not a stellar source of protein after all…

Per ½ cup serving Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Calories (kcal)
Quinoa 3.2 16 88
Brown Rice 2.7 24 115
Millet 3.2 22 109
Spelt (a wheat species) 5.6 27 130
Barley 1.9 23 102

Source: Canadian Nutrient File

Finally, nutritional merits aside, news reports earlier this year documented the uglier side of the quinoa boom. What was once a staple food to farmers in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador is now becoming unaffordable, forcing locals to turn to non-traditional foods.  Some consider this to be a tragedy, while food economists argue that commoditization of food can be a useful tool in helping poor areas improve their standard of living.  This is a debate that falls outside of my area of expertise but is certainly worth thinking about.

If you’re tired of quinoa, try this millet-based recipe for a change.  Millet is a cinch to prepare and has many of the nutritional perks of quinoa. The spices, chili pepper, and currants give this dish a punch of flavour and can brighten up an ordinary weeknight meal.

Curried Millet

Curried Millet
(from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

See below for delicious variations on this basic recipe.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)  *I couldn’t find these anywhere!
1/2 cup minced onions
3/4 cup millet
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne
1-1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup currents
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

  1. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, warm the oil, then add the mustard seeds, if using, and cook until they begin to pop, about 2 minutes.  Add the onions right away so the mustard seeds won’t burn and cook for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the millet and stir constantly until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the spices and salt and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the current and the cilantro, if using, and fluff with a fork. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir to fluff again. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Variations (try as many as your heart desires!): Use scallions instead of onions. Use 1-1/2 tsp of your favourite curry powder in place of the spices. Replace the currents with chopped raisins, dried cranberries, or dried apricots. Use coconut milk in place of 1/2 cup of the water or broth.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving (3/4 cup): 192 kcal, 32 g CHO, 4 g fibre, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 5 g protein, 183 mg sodium.

Weekday Quinoa Salad with Bocconcini and Late Summer Vegetables

30 Aug

Back-to-school time is here.  My days of school are finally over but like the hordes of students anxiously awaiting next Tuesday, I’m embarking on my own new beginning… a real job!

During the week, salads are my preferred lunch because they’re an easy way to eat several servings of vegetables in one go.  Traditional leafy greens with chopped vegetables, a protein source (beans, lentils, tuna, egg), a grain (rice, quinoa) and dressing used to be my staple.  Over the years, the prep became tedious and salads were slowly being replaced with less desirable lunches.

Wanting to reconnect with my salad habit of days past, I’ve recently taken a new approach.  On Sunday, a week’s worth of salad ingredients and dressing are combined in bulk and each morning I top a bed of spinach with a hearty scoop of dressed salad ingredients.  Voila!  Lunch for the day in under a minute.

A lunch of quinoa salad on a bed of spinach… ready to go!

With cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers, this bocconcini and oregano quinoa salad is the perfect weekday lunch to take advantage of the season’s local produce.  Plus, it’s easy to prepare, nutritious, and delicious!  Feel free to toss in a can of chickpeas for added protein and fibre.  Fresh oregano will almost certainly yield best results but I used dried and the salad was still delicious.  Bon appetite!

Late Summer Vegetable, Bocconcini, and Quinoa Salad

 

Bocconcini and Oregano Salad
(from Quinoa 365)

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup diced red onion (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup frozen baby green peas, thawed
1 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 cup halved mini bocconcini cheese pieces

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Set aside to completely cool.
  2. Combine the zucchini, tomatoes, onion, peas, red and yellow peppers in a large bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and thoroughly mix all the ingredients.
  4. Add the quinoa and bocconcini and mix until evenly combined.  Serve immediately or refrigerate before serving.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving:  308 kcal, 34 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 14 g fat (3.8 g saturated), 14 g protein, 122 mg sodium

 

Colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad

4 Mar

It’s official.  I’m the worst blogger ever.  Since January of this year I’ve been averaging one post per month.  Yikes!  Common excuses that keep me away from the computer include being too busy and the fact that I should use my time to do “real” work (or clean my apartment, or watch Top Chef).  In actuality, I’ve been in a bit of a rut for most of February.  It could be the weather, being in a rotation that I don’t love, or just the time of year.  Life is not overly busy and yet I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING.  Except for sitting on the couch after a day of work and watching TV.

Despite my lack of motivation, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of cooking and baking over the past couple of months.  I made this Moroccan-spiced quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago and it was an instant lift-me-up.  It’s colourful, bright in flavour, and full of wholesome ingredients.  A bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.

On a more positive note, it’s March and I already feel like my spirits are lifting.  Next weekend is one of my favourite times of the year.  Any guesses?  Drumroll please…

Next weekend we “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time!  I may be the only person on the planet who gets excited about turning the clocks forward.  Yes, it’s a drag to lose an hour of sleep but I firmly believe that the joy of leaving work in daylight is worth a day or two of sleep deprivation.  Spring is just around the corner…

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

 

Moroccan and Rollin’ Quinoa Salad (from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted the salt)
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used an entire 19 oz can)
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot, and diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions (I think I would use a little bit less next time)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used only 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey, and salt (if using) in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from heat.  Let stand covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.
  2. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. When quinoa is cool, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, including the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving.  Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 231 kcal, 7.4 g fat, 5.4 g fibre, 256 mg sodium