Curried Quinoa Salad

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Although I am forever a fan of marinated salads of all persuasions – bean, grain, pasta, vegetable, etc., the warm weather months heighten their appeal. Assembling a dinner or picnic around a wholesome concoction of vegetables and grains or beans and cloaking them in a robust vinaigrette is my favorite strategy for a quick, pleasurable meal that requires a minimal amount of time in front of the stove.

The rich curry flavor in this dressing transforms quinoa into a hauntingly good salad that has now become my favorite way to eat this nutritious food. Pecans, cranberries, carrots, and peas, add color and texture to the salad, and they are ingredients that I always have on hand. For me this adds to its charm because it doesn’t require special shopping.

Here are a few tips to make this recipe foolproof: always rinse quinoa before cooking it because it contains saponin, which can make it bitter. Choose a curry powder that is not hot; you can always add cayenne if you want it to be spicy.I slightly cook the carrots by adding them to the top of quinoa a few minutes before it’s done. You could skip this step and add them raw, but I think the texture is improved by the few minutes of cooking. And finally, toast the pecans for about 5-7 minutes in a 350 degree oven to heighten their rich flavor – just be certain to watch them to prevent burning.

Because this recipe makes a generous batch, I decided to freeze a portion to see if it’s flavor or texture would be diminished. I was pleased to discover that there was no noticeable change; it was just as good a few weeks later. To brighten its sheen I did drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on the salad once it thawed, but that’s a trick I learned to do to many foods when they are not served immediately after they are assembled.So don’t hesitate to make this in advance or even freeze it; you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish that has lost none of its charm.

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Serves 4 as a main course

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly in a strainer
1 carrot, finely chopped or minced

the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

additions:

2/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the quinoa and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until most the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the carrots on top of the quinoa (do not stir), cover the pan, and finish cooking about 3 more minutes. This will soften the carrots slightly but still keep their texture. Scoop the cooked quinoa into a large bowl and let cool.

P10101542. Meanwhile combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously.

3. When the quinoa is barely warm mix in the pecans, cranberries, and peas. Pour on all the dressing and coat everything well. Cover and chill a few hours before serving.

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