Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Warm Quinoa Salad: No ifs, ands or buts about it

It wasn’t a matter of “if.”

There was no “if” about it.

I knew it was going to happen the moment my eyes caught sight of the black and white words on the second page of the LA Times Food section this past Thursday morning.

I didn’t even need to read the recipe for the “warm quinoa salad” that Noelle Carter had commandeered from Fig restaurant for the week’s “Culinary SOS.” It didn’t matter. “Quinoa” was the only thing I needed to know.

It was the only thing my mother and Sonja from Active Foodie needed to know to reach the conclusion that I would be making the recipe also. Both of them brought it to my attention that day. My mother even saved the paper for me and had it waiting on my bed when I went home to visit this weekend.

Apparently, I’m kind of predictable when it comes to matters involving quinoa. Like Tiger Woods looking for his next “fix,” I have to have it – even if it means spending $5.99 on orange blossom honey, $1.99 on fresh rosemary and going against seasonality by purchasing a giant butternut squash in the middle of spring.

It wasn’t reasonable behavior. But then again, when am I ever reasonable when it concerns my stomach? I certainly don’t heed the fullness warnings that fire in my head when presented with the last few plates in a 13-course feast. Instead, I go back for more of the fried rice that I know will immediately expand in my belly making it impossible for me to sleep that night.

Similarly, when I find a recipe that I have to make straight away (or in this case, three days later), it doesn’t matter how much I have to spend or what I have to do to make it. It will happen. Just like this warm quinoa salad would (and did) happen.

The dish was everything that I hoped it would be – an addicting collusion of sweet, nutty flavors and crisp, satisfying textures. Paired with some grilled tofu, it was a healthy and satisfying Sunday night dinner that I am currently telling myself undid some of the damage from the aforementioned 13-course meal.

At the very least, it didn’t make it impossible for me to sleep that night. Or the next night when I heated up the delicious leftovers.

Warm Quinoa Salad
Adapted from the LA Times
Serves 2

Notes: I upped the amount of butternut squash and green beans in my version to make it “heartier” since I was serving it as my main course. I also roasted the green beans instead of blanching them to give them an earthier flavor, and I replaced the Marcona almonds with regular slivered almonds, and greatly reduced the amount of olive oil in the vinaigrette.

1 ½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup red quinoa, well-rinsed
½ green apple, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 cup spinach cut into slivers (original recipe calls for green chard)
½ butternut squash, cubed (approximately 1 cup)
1 ½ cups green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 rosemary sprig
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
Orange blossom vinaigrette
Grilled tofu (optional – see note at the bottom)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the butternut squash on a cookie sheet in one layer. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until tender – approximately 15-25 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes. If roasting the green beans instead of blanching them, add the beans to the sheet after the squash has been in for five minutes. (I found my squash took approximately 5-10 minutes longer to roast than my beans.)

While vegetables are roasting, prepare quinoa. Bring vegetable broth to boil in medium sauce pan, add the quinoa and rosemary, reduce the heat, and cover. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid and white shells have separated from the kernals (approximately 15-20 minutes).

Heat large sauce pan, add the apple, squash, green beans, spinach and quinoa, and cook together until spinach begins to wilt and the apple loses some of its bite (approximately 2-3 minutes). Add the dressing to taste (there will be extra). Toss in the almonds. Serve immediately.

Orange Blossom Vinaigrette
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange blossom honey
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to a simmer. Reduce the orange juice by one-third to yield approximately 1/3rd cup (approximately 5 minutes). Remove from heat and place in medium bowl. Set aside until cool.

To the reduced orange juice, whisk in the honey and then the vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Dressing will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator.

Note: If adding grilled tofu, cut 6-ounces of extra-firm tofu into inch-wide, ½-inch thick pieces. Marinate in two tablespoons dressing and grill on grill pan for approximately 2-3 minutes a side. Serve over the salad.


Ashley said...

Grillin tofu like a pro!

Esi said...

Yes, please!! FYI...rosemary is like a dollar at the farmers market...just sayin ;)

Jenn said...

I want the tofu for lunch!! I've been seeing quite a bit of salad around the blogosphere today. It's a salad kind of day.

Anna A. said...

Hah Yes, well of course you made this dish but how does it compare with all your other quinoa creations? I am thinking about making this one too but I don't want to go again the seasonality grain. A little hurt you took out so much of that olive oil. Maybe it's because you haven't tried the Greek version yet ;)

Kung Food Panda said...

I need to eat more quinoa. Only had it once...in the salad bought at Gelsons. :)

Sippity Sup said...

I noticed this exact recipe! It's cool you made such a gorgeous version. GREG

Diana said...

Ashley - I have a most excellent grill pan. :)

Esi - Hah, thanks for the tip! The problem is getting there - church tends to interfere with my farmers market plans.

Jenn - It is a salad kind of day! Perfect weather for it!

Anna - I hate oily dressings - completely negates the good of eating a salad IMHO. A little olive oil is fine, but a cup seemed pretty absurd to me!

Danny - There is a whole world of quinoa outside the Gelson's deli counter. I suggest you go explorin!

Greg - Thank you! It was easy to do with this killer recipe. You should try it!

Active Foodie said...

Looks delicious! I'm glad it was all you hoped it would be! :)