January 16, 2008
Because, amid all the party preparations going on around here, a girl’s gotta eat, I whipped up this salad yesterday for lunch. And because said party preparation can be exhausting (in the best, most satisfying kind of way), I made sure it would be not only delicious, but also packed with good things to give me energy to cook away the afternoon. And because Kevin was at work while I ate said energy-packed salad, I obviously threw in a generous handful of mushrooms.
Aside from mushrooms and energy, this salad also featured quinoa, an über ingredient of sorts known for its many nutritional benefits. And it’s tasty too. It’s similar in appearance to couscous, but it’s lighter and has a slight pop to it when you chew it. It also cooks up in a flash (combine water and quinoa in a 2:1 ratio (respectively) in a saucepan; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes; fluff with a fork and eat or freeze). You can eat it straight up, use it as a bed for a piece of fish or chicken or the like, or pair it with greens, veggies and a dressing, as I have done here, for a great salad. Oh, and it’s keen-wah, not quinn-oh-ah (as I pronounced it in my head for quite some time; embarrassing, I know).
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipe.)
In addition to the quinoa, the other critical ingredient to this salad, a variation of which I seem to make at least once a week, is a leafy green. Dainty greens like baby spinach or arugula will certainly work. But I like the heartier larger greens, like kale or Swiss chard (which you see in these photos), even better. These greens don’t shrink down quite so much when heated, allowing the quinoa to nestle its way into the many folds of the greens. Beyond these two ingredients, the options are endless: add any number of cheeses (I used feta here), vegetables (mushrooms, if a certain ‘shroom-hater’s not around, or really any other vegetable that’s in season) or nuts (pine nuts would’ve been great here, but I didn’t have any on hand). And get creative with a variety of dressings. And, whatever you do, buy yourself some quinoa, so you can throw together a salad like this on a moment’s notice.
Swiss Chard, Feta & Mushroom Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard (or other large, leafy green), chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons feta, crumbled
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and rinse the quinoa with cold water, until the water streaming out of the colander is clear. Place the rinsed quinoa in a small saucepan with the water and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute for several minutes. Add the chard and cook until the chard has cooked down to about half the volume.
In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk the mustard, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Once the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and place it into the large bowl, with the dressing at the bottom. Once the chard mixture is done cooking, place it in the large bowl, on top of the quinoa. Add the feta on top of the chard mixture. Toss the contents of the large bowl until well incorporated. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.