Keen on Quinoa

“I tell you the truth. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you”. Matthew 17:20

Yesterday I spent the day with two dear friends, Kim and Jen.  We had a blast going to garage sales and antique stores and lunch; and of course ended the day with a big old ice cream cone from this fabulous little Mom and Pop ice cream store called “Nelson’s” in Stillwater, Minnesota. These two girls are so much fun – intelligent, kind, encouraging and also a couple of goofballs.  It’s amazing.  Toward the end of the day we regrouped at Jen’s house and sat out on the deck and laughed and talked for a long time.  It was a terrific way to spend the day, and to top it off, I found a gorgeous plate at an estate sale for two bucks! 

It was crazy hot yesterday but even hotter this morning. Whew. The glass on the doors and window of the house and car are running with moisture – I believe the dew point or humidity today was close to 80%. Now I really know what the term “hot mess” means although, actually, sweaty Betty is probably more apropos to how I’m feeling.  We are so blessed to have air conditioning.

Sometimes Kim lets her little dog Twiggy stay with us.  Twiggy is part terrier and part whippet or greyhound and she is the funniest dog. She’s like a supermodel in the dog world.  All muscle and gleaming fur, with bright white teeth and shiny button eyes. And can she jump, holy cats.  My two dogs love the Twiglet, and my husband adores her.

Note the size difference between my “little” dog, Keats, and Miss Twiggy.  My other dog, Lou, is about half again as big as Keats (about 65 pounds vs Keats at 40 pounds), but when Twig tells Lou to jump, his first question is “How high?”.  Twiggy also has perfect pitch.  A police car went by one day while she was visiting, and the siren was going.  That little girl stuck her nose in the air and howled right along with it – a PERFECT imitation.  I almost fell off the chair laughing.  And of course the windows were all open that day, which I completely forgot about later on when I was howling at the top of my lungs trying to get Twigs to give a repeat performance.  She just shook her head sadly and walked away. So did my neighbor who happened to be out watering her flowers.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that most all Sunday afternoons are reserved for Dinner and Dominoes with my Uncle Dave.  Luckily he was inclined to come over here today (he’s such a good guy), because I truly wasn’t able to go out in this heat and survive. In the summer I really crave salady (I know that’s not a real word but I like it anyway) stuff, and being with Jen yesterday reminded me of this fab salad her husband makes.  I was able to score the recipe from Jen a while ago, and it turned out to be the perfect hot summer day salad. 

The main ingredient is called quinoa. It looks like it should be pronounced “kin-no-ah”, but it is actually pronounced keen-wah, emphasis on the “keen”.  And it is a pretty keen food. It’s not a true grain – it’s related to the beet family (thank you so much, Wikipedia!).  It’s a really great source of protein – very filling, and unlike a lot of foods that are good for you, it is quite tasty. It comes in several different varieties – I’ve tried white and red and find that I like the taste of the red best. You can eat it hot, cold or room temp (one caveat, you do need to cook it first or it really gets stuck in your teeth), and the texture reminds me of cous cous (love cous cous), but it’s a healthier food choice.

Here’s almost everything you’ll need except mint and garlic (Jim had to run to the store to get me some fresh mint and I just dorked out on the garlic)

Here’s some red quinoa.  Teensy little round seeds.

Here it is wet. “Why wet?” you may ask.  Or maybe not.  But it is important to rinse it well before cooking.  It’s coated with a natural substance called saponins which are awful tasting.  This keeps birds and animals from eating it while it’s growing.  It would likely keep humans from eating it as well (except for humans who can gag down wheat grass) if we couldn’t just wash it off.  So I just put it in a colander and run it under cold water for a couple of minutes.  It’ll foam up a little at first – probably the saponins protesting.

Put it in a nice heavy pan with water – use a ratio of 2 to 1 – 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cap it.  I’d start checking it at about 10 minutes, and it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.  It will absorb all the water and the germ will release from the seed (it’s a little white curvy piece). I think quinoa is really pretty, both cooked and uncooked. If you happen to have a rice cooker, you can cook it the same way you’d cook rice.

After the cooked quinoa is cooled (say that 10 times fast!), mince some red or purple onion (I bet shallots would be awesome) mint and cilantro,  and dice some red pepper, and cucumber.

Mix all the veggies and herbs into the cooled cilantro. Now mix up the dressing – red wine vinegar, minced garlic (yum!), olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Mix this into the salad and either serve immediately or chill until you’re ready to eat.  This is a great vegetarian meal as well.

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quinoa
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion (I use a bit more)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 Directions:

  1. Mix cooked and cooled quinoa and all veggies and herbs together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Mix olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Whisk briskly to combine, and pour over quinoa.  Stir thoroughly.  Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later use.

 


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