Quinoa is one of my favorite grains. But guess what? *gasp* It’s not really a grain. Did you know quinoa “is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It’s a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain.” Thanks, Wikipedia, for clarifying. I had no idea I was eating a “pseudocereal,” whatever the heck that is. I would have thought a “pseudocereal” was something like Lucky Charms or Cocoa Puffs.
Well, whatever it is, quinoa is mighty healthy and it’s such a nice complement to your ordinary meal. The first time I had a quinoa dish that caught my attention was at the Westwood Whole Foods when I grabbed a quick lunch of cranberry quinoa salad. It looked ordinary enough, but let me tell you. I still think about this salad. And that was about 2 years ago.
I had to google the recipe to see if I could find the recipe online, and what do you know. A brilliant food blogger posted the recipe. The person couldn’t get the recipe from the Whole Foods store(they kindly declined), but s/he luckily made up a recipe that is pretty darn close to what I ate. I have to give credit where credit is due to In Corpore Sano for this awesome interpretation. Thank you, Internet, and thank you, fellow epicureans.
This is the perfect salad to bring along to your boring lectures or discussion sections. The salad is not too vinegar-y to offend your fellow classmates, and not too crunchy to defeat your old professor’s soft voice. I made a few adjustments to In Corpore Sano’s quinoa salad recipe, but as is, the recipe is a keeper. If you don’t want to buy ground coriander(I get it and I don’t blame you. The spice costs like $7 bucks and it may not fit your college budget), you can omit it. Ground coriander is also not on my list of essential pantry items, so do as you will. But you need at least cumin to get this salad right. If you DO buy ground coriander, I will make it worthwhile for you by posting a ton of Indian recipes so you can use your coriander.
Feel free to use yellow quinoa or tri-color quinoa. As is, the recipe has a good balance between grain and vegetable, and I love that. If you want, you can cook more quinoa and add it to this salad.
Quinoa, red bell pepper, lemon, cilantro, green onions, dried sweetened cranberries, ground cumin, paprika, and ground coriander. And… salt. and. pepper. Toujours. Always.
What in the world is that, you ask? It’s tri-color quinoa from Trader Joe’s. You can use regular yellow quinoa, no biggie!
Before you cook quinoa, thou must rinse thoroughly.
How thoroughly? Very thoroughly. Rub the quinoa between your fingers to get the nasty bitter flavor off the exterior. Don’t skip this step. You don’t want bitterass quinoa reminiscent of ear wax (or so I’ve heard).
Now dump the quinoa in a pot with plenty of water. There should be about 2 inches of water above the quinoa. Place a lid on and set the pot to a boil. Start with hot/warm tap water so the water boils faster.
And there we go! It’s off to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low simmer (light boil), set a lid on, and continue to cook for anywhere between 6 to 10 minutes.
As the quinoa cooks, you might as well prep the other ingredients. Dice up half a red bell pepper into small pieces. Cut strips, then small cubes.
Chop up les oignons verts.
and the cilantro.
Now check the quinoa. After 6 to 10 minutes, you should see the germ of the quinoa seeds uncoil. It looks like a little curly piggy tail. We want firm quinoa, so this is perfect. The center is still a little opaque and crisp. Mushy quinoa is gross. Don’t go there.
Drain the quinoa. Don’t even think about rinsing it with water, please.
Dump that stuff in a bowl. It’s still pretty hot, and that’s perfect for the quinoa to absorb wunderiffic flavors. Start with fresh lemon juice.
Add all them spices. The cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, and pepper. Stir until totally mixed.
Now dump in the other ingredients. Red bell pepper, pretty please. Got another color of bell pepper? No prob.
Beautiful plump cranberries. aka Craisins.
Green onions and cilantro. Mhm. Zesty.
Okay, now taste it. That’s the only way you’ll know if it’s edible. More salt? pepper? paprika? Make some adjustments, if necessary.
Lemon Cranberry Quinoa Salad
Total time: 15 minutes
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: about 4 servings
1 cup raw quinoa (yellow or tri-color)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ tablespoon ground coriander
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
Half a red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Pour quinoa into a mesh strainer and rinse with tap water. Rinse the quinoa a few times, rubbing the quinoa between your fingers to remove bitter taste on outside of quinoa grains.
Pour quinoa into a small pot with water (about 2 inches of water above quinoa) and cover saucepan to bring to a boil. Once pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 6-10 minutes, or just until quinoa is tender and slightly firm still. Do not overcook quinoa; drain any excess water in the saucepan and transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl.
Add lemon juice, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, and toss quinoa until evenly mixed. Add chopped bell pepper, sliced green onions, cranberries, and cilantro, and mix with quinoa until combined. If necessary, adjust for seasoning by adding additional spices, lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Serve quinoa salad at room temperature or chilled.