Monday, June 3, 2013

Meatless Monday: Curried Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, this year's superfood! I don't go in for this superfood stuff, but it is pretty special. It is higher in protein than any other grain and that protein is complete, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. In a varied diet, this isn't quite as important as it sounds. (For more on protein, see this post.) If you are sensitive to gluten, it contains none. And, you can say you are eating the ancient grain of the Inca. Imagine you are at Machu Pichu. :-)

Quinoa has soap-like chemicals in its seed coat so it is important to rinse it well, swishing it around a bit in water, before cooking. Otherwise, it may taste a bit soapy and bitter. Generally, the flavor is pretty bland, making it a good choice for a salad because it readily soaks up the flavors of the dressing.

Quinoa is quite a bit more expensive than more common grains. I've seen it in the bulk section for $3.99/pound which is more than double the price of rice, even fancy rice like Jasmine. It does expand a lot (4 times its dry volume), bringing the cost way down. Compared to many forms of meat, poultry, or fish, it's quite economical.

Curried Quinoa Salad
(serves 2)

2 cups water or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon salt (omit if using salted vegetable stock)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained

¼ cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon mango chutney, chopped if very chunky (see Notes)
1 ½ teaspoons mild or medium curry powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 big pinch of salt and pepper

1 cup mango or cantaloupe, peeled and diced (can use thawed frozen mango too)
1 cup peeled cucumber, seeds scooped out with a spoon and diced
2 green onions
2 cups baby spinach, packed
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (see Notes)

Bring water or stock and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, 12-20 minutes (definitely takes closer to 20 at altitude). Transfer to a medium bowl.

Mince the white part of the green onions and slice the green part. Whisk together oil, vinegar, chutney, curry powder, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix in white part of green onions. Pour ¼ cup over quinoa. Add in mango, cucumber, and sliced green onions. Toss. Divide the spinach on 2 plates. Mound quinoa on spinach. Drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of almonds on each place.

Mango chutney lasts a very long time in the refrigerator. It's good mixed in rice or alongside Indian bean dals, or as a spread on sandwiches. Very tasty with cheese.

To toast almonds, place in a skillet over medium heat until just golden brown. Watch carefully! They burn quickly.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild.

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