[Eating Rainbow | Red | Red Quinoa Salad]
I often tell people that I, a burger-eating, lamb-loving carnivore, could easily become a vegetarian.
“I like tofu. Want to maaaaarry the edamame.” I’ll say, rolling my eyes to the back of my head as though I’m having hot flashes of ecstasy just saying the words out loud.
In the moment I mean it — I really do enjoy eating all the other things that Old MacDonald had on his farm, E-I-E-I-O. But in practice, it’s always a bit harder than I imagine it to be. Meals that contain meat are inherently more filling and satisfying than a pile of veggies and soy-based proteins or beans. And then there’s the whole issue of needing to combine any legume, nut or bean with a grain in order to make it a complete protein, which contains all nine essential amino acids.
It’s a lot of pressure. Especially when one can just roast up a chicken and get all those vital amino acids in one straight, finger-lickin’ good shot. Utensils aren’t even necessary — the leg and thigh flesh can be extracted directly from the bone with one’s teeth. E-I-E-I-amino!
That said, on the days that I do want to go meatless (and boneless) and eat like a civilized person at the table with a fork, knife and folded white napkin, quinoa makes things infinitely easier — especially the red variety which has a slightly heartier texture than the more common white.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), the friendly little ancient “grain” from South America that’s actually a seed, is already a complete protein, making it the perfect compliment to any vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s also gluten-free and chock full of filling fiber to help keep those pesky cravings for burgers and Mary’s little lamb at bay. Plus, according to the George Mateljan Foundation for The World’s Healthiest Foods it’s a solid source of other vital nutrients like magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and can aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes; riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within the body’s cells; and iron, which is essential for the production of red blood cells.
While I often use the milder white quinoa as a substitute for rice, I prefer using red quinoa when I make salads. Its sturdy texture can stand up to dressings, and it has a stronger, nuttier flavor than the white variety. That nutty component is perfectly suited for this almost-spring salad from Fine Cooking that is loaded with complimentary flavor tones — tart dried cranberries, crisp slices of sweet apple and fennel, sharp shards of arugula, toasted walnuts, and savory cubes of aged gouda cheese.
The different tastes pop with the acidity from the Sherry vinegar dressing and the varying textures keep even the most carnivoric mouths entertained — and, perhaps more importantly, silent and devoid of complaints. When I eat this salad (usually with a shovel because a civilized fork doesn’t get it into my mouth fast enough), I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Most likely because, I’m not missing out on anything. The red quinoa gives my body all of those nine amino acids that it needs, plus a load of nutrients that keep things running at the cellular level. Jerry Maguire might say it completes me. But since I’m not quite ready to go and marry red quinoa just yet (I’m still kind of committed to edamame), quinoa will just have to settle for being the first, essential taste of the “TasteSpotting Eating Rainbow.”
Quinoa Salad with Apples, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Gouda
Adapted from Fine Cooking
1½ cups red quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ large red onion, minced
4 oz. arugula, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
4 oz. aged Gouda, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 large, crisp apple, such as Fuji or Pink Lady, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely sliced fennel
1 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In a bowl, rinse the quinoa with water, rubbing it between your fingers for about 10 seconds. (It is necessary to rinse quinoa well before cooking because the seeds are coated with saponins, naturally-occurring plant chemicals that can taste bitter.) Drain and transfer it to a 3-quart pot. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender but still delicately crunchy, about 15-20 minutes.
Drain the quinoa and return it to the pot. Cover and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes; then fluff it with a fork. Let cool to room temperature.
While the quinoa cooks, soak red onion in small bowl of water for approximately 30 minutes. Soaking the red onion will reduce its astringency.
When quinoa has cooled, in a large bowl, mix the quinoa, onions, arugula, cheese, apple, walnuts, fennel, and cranberries.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the sherry vinegar, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Add the dressing to the salad and gently mix it in. Let rest a moment; then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if the salad seems dry.
Health Benefits of Red Quinoa
- Complete protein: contains all 9 essential amino acids in the correct proportions that are necessary to support the repair of tissues and organs.
- High in fiber which promotes heart and digestive health and controls blood glucose and insulin concentrations.
- Minerals: good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper, and phosphorus, which are particularly valuable for people who suffer from migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
- Good source of riboflavin (also called vitamin B2), which is necessary for proper energy production within cells.
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