Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Scrumptious Salad with Quinoa, Beets and Walnuts

We love quinoa at our house! And, we’re not alone. The United Nations has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, bringing the spotlight to a food that has recently become very popular.

For thousands of years, quinoa has been an important staple in Andean cultures, and now the rest of the world is getting on board with this little wonder food. Though it can be used in place of grains, quinoa itself is technically not a grain. It has a very high complete protein content, as well as being a good source of calcium, making it a perfect food for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus, as well as being high in magnesium and iron. And on top of all this goodness, it is gluten-free and easy to digest. What’s not to love?

Well, there is one thing – saponins. In its natural state, quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins that protect it from predators. Good news for quinoa, bad news for people who don’t like bitter tasting food. Not to worry, though. Most commercially sold quinoa has been washed to remove this coating, so the only thing to do before cooking it is to rinse it briefly with fresh water.

I make Scrumptious Salad (we named it that because, well, it’s scrumptious) about once a week. It’s a quick, filling meal that keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days. This is a vegan dish, but if you eat dairy, you can toss in some crumbled blue cheese for an added tangy flavor.

      Scrumptious Salad

               1 cup organic quinoa
               2 cups filtered (or spring) water
               2 small-medium sized beets
               6-8 cups organic greens
               ½ cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)
               ½ cup chopped raw walnuts or
               ½ cup candied walnuts (recipe)
               1 bunch green onions (easy growing directions)
               ½ cup organic extra virgin olive oil
               juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
               sea salt, to taste
               cayenne pepper, to taste

Rinse the quinoa under cool running water. Combine the quinoa and spring water in a covered pot, bring it to a boil and simmer over low heat until all of the water is absorbed.  Put in a bowl to cool while preparing the rest of the recipe.

You can shred raw beets, or cook them, if you prefer. To cook the beets, boil them in a covered pot. I test doneness by inserting a fork; if it goes through easily with just a bit of resistance, the beets are ready. Remove from heat, drain the water and let the beets cool completely.

Chop the onions and greens and combine them in a large salad bowl with the walnuts, blue cheese and cooled quinoa. Cut the tops and tails off the beets and discard them. Dice the beets into small pieces, then add them to the greens, along with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for about two days. 



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