We have a lot of family and friends with special dietary requirements, and at times, finding something tasty to feed them all can be a challenge. Vegetarian, vegan, kosher, lo-carb, no-carb, gluten-free, etc... the list can go on and on. What might be perfect to serve to one group will simply not do for another. That's when quinoa steps up to the plate!
Quinoa is basically a seed; a seed with lots of protein and without gluten. A superfood, and pretty darn tasty, grain alternative. Originally a staple in several South American cultures, quinoa has become the rage among health-nuts and gourmands alike. It can be found in salads, porridge, cookies, stews, and even ground into flour. Nutty, crunchy, and nutritious - quinoa is a quick and easy go-to for those with sensitive diets.
Healthy Quinoa Salad
makes 10-12 servings
2 cups of tricolored quinoa, (or quinoa of your choosing)
4 cups of water
1/2 a large purple onion, cut into thirds and thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup whole raw pecans, roughly chopped
4 ounces of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
2 teaspoons garlic powder (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
chopped scallions for garnish (optional)
Rinse the 2 cups of quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under cold water while mixing with your hand for 3 minutes (this washes away the bitterness and lets you pull out any small stones - yes, this happens!). Take your rinsed quinoa and place in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the quinoa for 10-15 minutes, drying the seeds and bringing out the nutty flavor - don't burn them!
Once toasted, transfer the seeds to the saucepan full of water. Bring the quinoa and water to a full boil, and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until all the water has evaporated.
While the quinoa is cooking, bring a small saucepan filled halfway with water up to a boil. Dump the green beans into the water to blanch for 3 minutes. While the beans cook, take a medium mixing bowl and fill with ice and cold water. After the 3 minutes is up, immediately transfer the green beans from the boiling water to the ice bath to stop the cooking process and to maintain the vibrant green color. Set aside.
Using a food processor with the grater attachment or a regular box grater, grate the carrots. Peel and finely chop the onion, roughly chop the pecans, and measure out the dried cranberries. Reserve.
Take the blanched green beans and cut 1 inch pieces on an angle and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Add the dressing (see below for recipe). Add the garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste.
Allow the assembled salad to cool to room temperature and then chill, covered, for at least 2 hours so the flavors can blend. I prefer to chill overnight. This salad is best on day #2 and will keep in the fridge for about 5 days in a covered container.
Sweet Balsamic Dijon Dressing
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoons honey
Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl and salt & pepper to taste.