Quin-what? Close. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is a grain/seed. You can cook it exactly as you would cook rice. It’s growing in popularity because of the trend for gluten-free foods, but it’s been around forever. Like a few thousand years according to Wikipedia.
Something about it screams of the 1970′s health-food store to me. I picture men with long hair, Birkenstocks, and everything in golden wheat color. But that’s just my imagination, as quinoa can be found pretty much anywhere. I even spotted it at the drugstore last week.
And it’s really good. It’s a very nice change of pace from rice or pasta. You can eat it on its own, but where it shines and works really amazingly is as a base for all kinds of salads.
The Banker (a.k.a. my other half) has been studying for months now for the Certified Financial Planner exam, which he takes in just a week now. I swear he’s worked harder at this than I ever did at passing the Bar Exam. And that was very hard for me to do, because I generally hate passing any sort of bar. (That is a joke — bad lawyer humor. Ha ha.)
Well, getting back to the point, the Banker’s study buddy is one of those gluten-free kind of gals. So, on the nights when she was over to study I got to try my hand at making some nice gluten-free options. Knowing my priorities the first thing that I made was a flourless chocolate cake. But neither man nor woman can live on flourless chocolate cakes alone (unfortunately), so my next thought was a nice quinoa salad.
This recipe, for a quinoa salad with spinach and parsley, is also a hit. It’s light and fresh. It tastes like summer. You could have it as a light lunch or a side for dinner alongside just about anything that came off a grill (or a grill pan, for those of us that live in multi-unit dwellings and don’t have grills).
Other than cooking of the quinoa, nothing else is cooked in this salad, so it’s especially nice on a hot day when the idea of turning on the oven doesn’t thrill you. I love the tangy creaminess of the dressing with the fresh taste of lemon and parsley. This is one of those salads that you could eat every day and never tire of.
This recipe was inspired by and adapted from a recipe in Patricia Wells’ book, Salad as a Meal, which practically jumped out at me on a trip to the public library last week.
- 1.5 cups (255 g) quinoa
- 2 cups (325 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup (187 ml) water
- 1 tsp. (6 g) salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
- 4 scallions, white part only, sliced very thin (reserve the greens for the vinaigrette below)
- 1 bunch spinach (5 to 8 oz), washed and rinsed, stems removed
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) lemon juice
- ½ tsp. (3 g) salt
- 1 cup (187 ml) plain yogurt or half-and-half
- ⅓ cup (33 g) finely chopped scallion greens
- Toast the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is making crackling sounds and smelling toasty.
- Transfer the quinoa to a fine-meshed sieve and run it under cold water to rinse it.
- Put the quinoa in a medium saucepan with the stock, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the quinoa sit another 10 minutes, covered. Remove the bay leaves.
- While the quinoa is cooking, put the parsley leaves, olive oil, and the 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) of lemon juice into a food processor and process until finely blended.*
- Prepare the scallions and spinach. Once you’ve cleaned and de-stemmed the spinach, cut it across the leaves into thin strips, making ribbons of spinach (a.k.a chiffonade).
- To make the Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette, combine in a small jar with a lid the 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) of lemon juice with the yogurt, salt, and scallion greens.
- Shake well to incorporate everything, then taste for seasoning adding more salt and some black pepper if desired.
- Add the parsley mixture and scallions to the quinoa, just to combine everything.
- In a separate bowl, toss the spinach with just enough of the Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens.
- Add the quinoa to the spinach and toss it all together gently.
- All done! A sprinkle of salt and/or pepper is a good idea here if your taste tells you it needs it.