Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mediterranean Toasted Quinoa Salad

This is a chopped salad that hits all the right flavors and textures: crunchy, creamy, toasty, tangy and bright . Lemony salads are wonderful year round. I particularly love them in winter, when most of us long for something lively, fresh and green. While tomatoes are tasteless in winter, red bell peppers, lemons and cucumbers are usually fine. Herbs seem to always be available on my supermarket shelves too.

This crisp salad makes a nice lunch or light dinner with warm pita, some crumbled feta and briny olives. A sprinkling of crunchy sea salt and toasted nuts on the top is a good idea too. One reader said that he tosses avocado into it.
The smoky and toasty flavors of the roasted peppers and quinoa play against the tang of the lemon, the freshness of the herbs, the crunch of the cucumbers and the creaminess of the beans. Toasting the quinoa before cooking it brings out its nuttiness and enhances its flavor. 


Toasted Quinoa Salad Recipe

Makes a large bowl full

Some Notes
Quinoa is gluten free and high in protein, giving the salad more nutritional value.
If chickpeas aren't your thing, swap them for white beans. For that matter, most fresh herbs will work here, such as basil or tarragon.
Instead of roasting your own peppers, pick up a jar of them to use in this recipe.
If all you can find is large cucumbers, seed and peel them before adding them to the salad.
Scallions are less harsh than onions, I prefer them in my chopped salads.

  • 6 small cucumbers, chopped into small pieces. I use seedless Persian cucumbers.
  • 6-8 scallions, diced
  • 3 red bell peppers, sliced in half and seeded
  • 1-2 lemons
  • A large handful of dill, chopped
  • A large handful of mint, chopped
  • A large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, patted with a paper towel
  • Drizzle of honey or pinch of sugar to balance the acid in the lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • To Serve: toasted pine nuts or almonds, avocado, pita bread, baguette, lemon wedges, drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, grey celtic salt, crumbled feta, olives

Instructions For Cooking the Quinoa 
Rinse one cup of quinoa.
In a small pot, over medium heat, toast the rinsed quinoa in a little olive oil until it’s fragrant and starts to make a crackling sound, about 3-5 minutes. Carefully add two cups of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is done. Toss 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa with a little salt, pepper and olive oil and set aside.
Salad Instructions
Make the toasted quinoa set aside.
Roast the peppers by placing the sliced peppers, cut side down, on an oven safe baking sheet lined with tin foil. Broil on high until their skins are charred and blackened. Remove from the oven, place the peppers in a covered bowl or wrap in more tin foil to steam. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skin and discard. Chop and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, scallions, roasted red peppers, mint, dill, parsley, rinsed and drained chickpeas, drizzle of honey, salt and pepper. Add a couple of good drizzles of olive oil and a squeeze or two from a juicy lemon. Toss and taste. Adjust salt, lemon and olive oil. Stir in either the cooked quinoa. Taste again to adjust seasonings. Serve with suggestions and enjoy.

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