Friday, June 8, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Lately I've been seeing a lot of magazine articles and blog posts about quinoa. My first encounter with quinoa was 4 years ago when SP & I moved in together. At the time, he thought he had celiac disease, so he lived a gluten free life. This was a little difficult since I love gluten and we often made gluten filled and gluten free versions of everything we made, like pizza, pasta dishes, etc. Twice as much work, twice as much clean up, but he couldn't eat gluten and I do not like the taste of many gluten free products.

Enter quinoa. Gluten free. I think of it as a grain, but I think it might really be a seed. It has a high protein content, is cholesterol free, and is full of essential amino acids. It's healthy. Nestled in with his many, many, many jars of gluten free foods was a jar of quinoa. He assured me it was 'harmless and healthy.' I was unsure. My first encounter didn't go so well. We simply cooked it. In water. Not in chicken broth. No herbs. Nothing. It was harmless but it was so bland. And had kind of a strange grainy, crunchy texture. I wasn't a fan. 
The next time we tried it, I was inspired by a Giada recipe for Herbed Quinoa. The quinoa was cooked in chicken broth and lemon juice and then tossed with more lemon juice and lots of herbs and lemon zest. That is tasty, tasty quinoa. Lemony. Herby.The grains seemed less grainy/crunchy. Simple to make.

Quinoa is easy to make, it's just like rice, but of course we all know I can't handle simple things like rice and eggs. Like rice, I would always boil over the quinoa and then get mad at having to clean the stove top. Our quinoa cooking got much simpler & easier when Googer gave me a rice cooker - it also cooks quinoa.

Anyway, to wrap this post up: It's summer. I love summer salads, like pasta salad, potato salad, fattoush, and now quinoa salad. The June issue of Bon Appetit has a recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh with lots of fresh mint and parsley. Two Peas & Their Pod posted a Greek Quinoa Salad recipe. Those are just the two that stick in my mind because they were my main inspirations for this meal, but there have been posts on quinoa baked goods, quinoa minestrone, breakfast quinoa, quinoa cups, quinoa bakes... so many!
We bought a fresh, gigantic bag of quinoa at Costco as well as a bag of pre-cooked, frozen shrimp, pictured above. To the cooked quinoa (we cooked 1 cup quinoa in the rice cooker) and thawed shrimp I added grape tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamatas, carrots, CSA goat feta cheese, fresh oregano, fresh thyme, and freshly ground sea salt & pepper. The dressing is a simple vinaigrette of 1/2 cup olive oil and 8-9 tablespoons red wine vinegar.
I am keeping the shrimp separate and thawing as needed to mix into the quinoa salad on our plates. I'm not a big fan of seafood hanging out for too long! I'd rather have to thaw shrimp each day than have a bunch of shrimp marinating in the quinoa salad.

This is delicious! Lots of veggies. Simple, tangy vinaigrette. Salty & briny bite from the local feta. I can't wait to make lots of variations on this, maybe adding some grilled veggies like zucchini, eggplant, onions, mushrooms. Chopped green pepper. Roasted red pepper. Maybe use a white wine vinegar instead for the vinaigrette. Or just olive oil and lemon juice. We have fresh mint and chives on the deck, too.

Just like pasta salad, the possibilities are endless.

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