Sunday, June 10, 2012

Simple Summer Salads

Hi, remember me?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's been a while since I've written. Life has kind of "gotten in the way." Not in a bad way, per se. I've been taking a couple of classes, most recently (for the past three weeks) in Vermont, where they've really consumed me fully. Aside from having time for my brain to relax (and grow), I really have no other obligations or responsibilities at the moment, which is utterly amazing at times.

Anyways, spring/early summer in the great green state of Vermont is blissful. Some days it's 40 and I just want to curl up with a cup of rich hot chocolate, or a glass of my new favorite zinfandel, Seven Deadly Zins and a hearty steak dinner

Other days, like today, it's gorgeous, sunny, and a perfect 80 degrees - and I crave a herb-filled salad straight from the greenmarket topped with a hearty quinoa salad like this one, below, filled with toasty almonds, sweet golden raisins and apricots (I recently discovered Cheese Traders and I'm in nut/dried fruit heaven), refreshing lemon zest, and the perfect amount of parsley to bind it all together.

Since weekdays leave me no time for cooking (or really anything else other than class and homework and sleep), my strategy has been to cook up a meat main dish, a hearty grain-based side dish, and have a bunch of vegetables (raw, like greens or zucchini, and cooked, like roasted broccoli or beets) to use when quickly assembling dinner during the week. Last weekend, I went for a simple half roast chicken (using the best birds from a favorite from my college days, Misty Knoll Farm) and spring pea risotto using my go-to base recipe. So good. And this weekend? A delicious green curry made with fresh basil and grass-fed beef from a farm in Shelburne (check back later this week for the recipe, or try this one) and this incredible quinoa salad.

I used to not be a big fan of quinoa, as it somehow never sat right with me. Little did I know that you're supposed to rinse quinoa well before cooking, as there are some saponins on the grains that, to me, taste a little off. So I've gotten into the habit of soaking my quinoa in hot water for not even 5 minutes before draining and combining with a smudge of olive oil and water and cooking. It makes all the difference! The best part of this salad? It's not just for dinner (or served warm). It's the perfect packable lunch, or I may even devour this at breakfast with some more nuts on top (or a poached egg). 

What do you like to put in quinoa salads?

Summer Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Cumin and paprika, to taste

In a medium pot, combine quinoa, oil, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the dried fruit, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, juice, zest, and herbs in a bowl. Once the quinoa is ready, season to taste with cumin and paprika. Toss the quinoa with the lemon juice, adding a bit more oil if desired, and season well to taste. Serve immediately.


Eleanor said...

I found you on Instagram and am now hooked! I love your blog and your photos.
And I love Maine too...

Allison Beck said...

Eleanor, thanks for the compliments. It's been a bit quiet, but more to come next week I promise! Thanks and keep following and cooking!