Quinoa Salad

I feel like quinoa popped up overnight.  One minute I’ve never heard of it, the next it’s all over the internet.  I have grown very fond of quinoa and it is now a regular part of my diet.  It is known as an ancient grain and isn’t considered one of the “bad grains” I’ve written about earlier.  Quinoa has twice the fiber and protein of brown rice or any other grain.  It also has a nearly perfect blend of amino acids which helps keep stabilized blood sugar, etcetera, etcetera. I’m probably boring and not as qualified as the rest of the internet, so do your own googling!

This is one summer salad that is so easy to make and it’s light, healthy, and delicious!  The ingredients are easily interchangeable so the flavor profiles are endless.  It also packs well so it’s great on a picnic or the next day at work or school.

I used a tri-color quinoa of red, black, and white, but using simple white quinoa is just as tasty.  I love that quinoa is easily made on the stovetop or a rice cooker, with water or vegetable stock.  It is a great rice substitute and it goes well with so much.  I have given approximate portions of what I used, but this is the type of recipe that doesn’t need exactness, you just put a little bit of what you like and a lot of what you love.

Quinoa Salad

serves 2-3

2C cooked quinoa

1.5C cooked black beans

1 mango

1/2 bell pepper

2 scallions

zest from 1 lemon

3T lemon juice

5-6T olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

First, cook the quinoa if you haven’t already.  This would be a good time to make the dressing.  Simply combine the oil, lemon juice and zest, with the salt and pepper in a small food processor to combine.  Then, chop all the fruits and veggies of your choice.

Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the black beans in a large serving bowl.

Toss the veggies and fruits in.

Look at the lemony yellow dressing.  It’s BEAUTIFUL!

Pour it over the salad and toss thoroughly to combine.

Rest for at least an hour to let the dressing soak into the quinoa and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

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Orzo & Wild Rice Salad

What an eventful week!  The 4th always brings lots of fun, memories, and food!  After the burgers & desserts that accompanied the fireworks I had to make something light, chilled, and refreshing for this HOT summer we’re having in Florida.  This little chilled salad is perfect!

I was inspired, once again, by J. Alexander’s and their orzo & wild rice salad.  That side is one of my husband’s favorites, so I decided to make my own version.  Cherries are in season and so delicious, so I wanted to make those the star of this dish.  This is the type of dish where measurements don’t really matter, as long as you’re happy with the look of the salad and ratio of ingredients.  But for all those OCD folks, I listed the measurements I used.

Chilled Orzo & Wild Rice Salad

Serves 10

2C orzo pasta

1C wild rice

1/2C red winter wheat berries

2 handfuls of fresh cherries

1 ear of corn

½ red bell pepper, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 handful of raw almonds

5-10 basil leaves

1/3C olive oil

2T balsamic vinegar

1-2T lemon juice

1/2t pepper

1/4t salt

1T cherry juice, optional

Cook the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries according to the package directions on the stovetop.  Meanwhile, roast your corn in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Leave the husk on (it holds in juicy moisture) but rinse it off before placing in oven.  Also, this is a good time to stem, pit, and slice the cherries.  I used my handy dandy cherry pitter from Williams-Sonoma.  It shoots through the cherry taking only the pit and occasionally a small circle from the bottom of the cherry.  Otherwise the cherry is perfectly in tact.  I shot the pits directly into a deep garbage can…and still managed to get cherry juice on the side of my white fridge.  Clorox wipes to the rescue!

Since cherries are notorious for staining, and I didn’t want my pasta pink, I sliced them each in half and let them sit on paper towels for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I roughly chopped the almonds.  If you want to save some time, or really want everything to be symmetrical, you could pre-buy slivered almonds.  But, I like the rough and tumble, all natural, hand-made, rustic feeling of this dish, so I roughly chopped away.

Then, I julienned the basil.

And made the dressing.  I first combined the salt, pepper, half the basil, & vinegar

with the lemon juice.  This would be the time to add a Tablespoon or two of cherry juice if you’d like, but if not, add extra lemon juice.

Blend together well.

Once blended together, slowly, and I mean slowly incorporate the oil a little bit at a time, and set aside.  At this point, the corn should be about ready and whenever the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries are ready, they should be cooling at first on the stove top, then in the fridge.  Don’t forget to rinse the starch from the orzo.  Though it looks like rice, you’re still dealing with pasta!  Cut the corn off the cob and assemble your ingredients together.  You’re almost ready!

I first started with the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries to make sure I had a good ratio of each and that it looked pleasing.  (I didn’t end up using all my wild rice.)

Then added the veggies (I used them all!)

then lastly the nuts, fruit, remaining basil, and dressing.  Stir well and chill for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.  Enjoy!

Tangy Vinaigrette Chopped Salad

Years ago I cruised to the Bahamas with my husband and some close friends.  While ashore, we dined in the Atlantis Hotel at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill restaurant.  I fell in food-love!  Not only was the restaurant gorgeous itself, but the food presentation and flavor was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tasted.  Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that the small town I live in only has a Chili’s and an Outback….ahem.  Moving on.  I loved the style of food at the Mesa Grill which is perfectly described as “explosive flavor from the southwestern kitchen.”  I could eat quesadillas every day, so when I ordered the Smoked Black Bean & Corn Quesadilla with Avocado and Toasted Garlic Creme Fraiche I was in quesadilla Heaven.  The way Chef Flay combines spicy chilies with sweet notes in his food instantly made me a fan.  I talked about it so much that one Christmas, my sweet mother & father-in-loves (yeah, better than in-laws!) bought me the Mesa Grill cookbook!  I was ecstatic!

Though several recipes are quite fancy – as in, I’d never have the guts to cook, or eat, duck – there are many that I’ve made several times for both casual dinners and special occasions.  This salad is so simple, yet delicious!  The secret is how you make the dressing.  Now, I respect a chef. But, there’s still something in me that urges me to try things a different way.  So, normally I don’t mess with a good thing, but this is my interpretation of Chef Flay’s “Sophie’s Chopped Salad.”

And yes, maybe I am referring to him as Chef Flay just in case he reads this and wants to hire me.

Tangy Vinaigrette Chopped Salad

adapted from Bobby Flay

Serves 4-6

For the vinaigrette you’ll need:

1/4 C balsamic vinegar

1T Dijon mustard

1t salt

1/2 t pepper

1 C canola oil, divided in half

For the salad you’ll need:

3 C chopped romaine lettuce

2 ripe tomatoes of your choice seeded and diced

1/2 C canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 C canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 C chopped stems of scallions

3/4 C 1/2-inch-cubed white Cheddar cheese

3/4 C 1/2-inch-cubed Monterey Jack cheese

4-6 corn tortillas

With a salad like this, you really don’t need to measure the ingredients exactly, you just want an even blend of the beans, cheeses, tomato, and scallions.  No worries if the measurements aren’t perfect.

After washing and drying the veggies, chop the lettuce to bite size pieces.

Next, add the beans and cheeses!  Try not to eat too many on their own.  I know it’s tough.

Chop the scallions.  I only used the green parts because though I love onion, I didn’t want that to be the predominant flavor of the salad.

And the tomatoes.  I waited to put them in the bowl until after the vinaigrette and tortillas were ready so their juices didn’t run around all cray cray.

Now it’s time for the vinaigrette!  This is one of the first home-made salad dressings I tackled, and it showed me there’s no need to be intimidated by salad dressings!  They’re not too hard to pull off.  This one can be made in a blender, in a bowl with a wisk, or as I did, in a small food processor.

Add salt & pepper,

Dijon mustard,

And add the vinegar.

Blend together until smooth.

Once it’s all blended slowly add 1/2 cup of oil to the mix.  If using a whisk, this will be easy, and if your food processor has an opening on top this will be easy.  Since mine does not, I would stop, add a little then blend.  Stop, add a little more then blend, and so on until all the oil had been encorporated.  This is the tricky part!  I’ve made this dressing before and once I dumped the oil in all at once and it did not blend correctly and separated afterwards.  It wasn’t right.  Make sure you add the oil slowly a little bit at a time.

When it’s done right, you get this!

The last component to this delicious salad is the crispy element.  Heat the remaining oil on medium-high heat.  Once the oil is ready, lightly fry both sides of each tortilla.

Once all tortillas are finished, add the tomatoes to the salad and mix well.  Plating is fun since the tortillas acts as a “plate.”  The tortillas tear easily with the fork to add a bit of crunch in the salad.  Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, dried parsley, or anything else you’d like!  It’s soooo delicious.  This might just become your new favorite salad.

Greek Pasta Salad

Here’s a yummy recipe that’s quick & easy to assemble.  I made it in less than 30 minutes, and that was while taking pictures, switching the laundry, and cleaning the kitchen.  No, I’m not Superwoman, but I bet your time would beat mine.  This is a great dish for a picnic, potluck, or quick, healthy lunch.

Look at it.  It screams “GOOD JOB!!! YOU’RE EATING HEALTHY!!!”  This, like most recipes I make, comes from creativity with the ingredients I had.  For a more authentic Mediterranean flavor profile, I would have used cucumber, but I had just used my last cucumber on another recipe that day, so I used zucchini instead.  If I hadn’t let my parsley plant die, I would have added fresh parsley as well.  You could also add vegan feta cheese or, for a vegetarian option, real feta cheese.  You’ll never hurt my feelings experimenting with my recipes.  So, here’s what I used:

Greek Pasta Salad serves 3-4

8 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta

1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

1T dried oregano

1T dried parsley

1 medium zucchini

2 Roma tomatoes

2 large scallions

1 small 2.29oz can sliced black olives, drained

salt & pepper to taste

I got a pot of water up to a rolling pasta and cooked it al dente for 9 minutes uncovered.  Meanwhile, I chopped all the washed veggies.  In no particular order:

scallions,

zucchini (or cucumber if you’d rather,)

and tomato.

Then I made the yummy, tangy dressing. 1/4 cup olive oil,

lemon juice,

salt & pepper,

and oregano & parsley.

Whisk it all together until it’s a creamy yellow color.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as you’d like.

Once I drained the pasta, I let it cool just a few moments before adding it to the dressing.  The pasta was still steamy.

Gently toss the pasta to evenly coat.  Then add all the veggies and the olives.  Toss away.

Then you get this.  It’s ready to serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.  It’s so simple and delicious!

I packed it up for the next day’s lunch.  Yummo as usual.  Enjoy!