I was recently introduced to Quinoa and have been experimenting with it over the last few months. Quinoa is really a seed but because it is used in the same way we use grains, it is known as a grain. I love its versatility. It is a great substitute for rice, great in salads and even works as part of a healthy breakfast by preparing it in the same way you would prepare oatmeal. To learn more about quinoa and how to store and prepare it, click here.
My latest quinoa experiment was with salads. I made a salad the other day that I just have to share with you. My inspiration for this salad came from the cafeteria at work. Yes, it is that good, 90% of the time! We have several different stations, a grill station, panini station, made to order sandwiches, soup and salad stations, sauté station etc. I think there are about 10.
Actually, the sauté station once served what they called “Guyanese Cook Up Rice.” I cracked up when I saw the dish because it was nowhere near the real deal. It was essentially fried rice with your choice of protein and vegetables. But I digress. Back to the inspiration for the salad, the cafeteria salad bar has an orzo salad that I absolutely love. It is very simple with olives, feta and a buttery balsamic dressing.
Instead of orzo, I decide to use the quinoa grain, tossed in cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, celery, shredded carrots, dried cranberry, cilantro, slivered almonds, a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and BOOM! I had a delicious salad.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup celery, finely chopped
¾ cup feta cheese crumbles
¼ cup olives, roughly chopped
2 Tbls chopped cilantro
½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
½ cup slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds or roasted pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mustard
½ Tbls minced garlic
Cook quinoa according to instructions on package (I highly recommend soaking it for at least 15 minutes to remove the bitter coating known as saponin. I learned the hard way and did not enjoy my first attempt at making quinoa).
Allow quinoa to cool.
Add quinoa, tomatoes, carrots, celery, feta, olives, cilantro, and dried cranberries or raisins to a large bowl.
Whisk together all the ingredients for dressing, add to other ingredients and gently toss to combine the ingredients. Garnish with the nuts of your choice and you are ready to serve.
This salad can also be served chilled. I prefer mine at room temperature.