June 24, 2006

Lest you assume I am only capable of blogging self-righteously and wordily about serious issues, here is my first food post. Today is a rainy summer day, perfect for experimenting in the kitchen and making all kinds of iced tea.

It’s hot and sweaty summertime in
New York, which means it’s time for summer salads. I do enjoy a good grain-based main dish salad, in addition to variations on the lettuce/spinach based vegetable salad. This morning I put together a simple and fresh salad with a quinoa base. The quinoa can be made in advance and refrigerated. Warning: this salad is not for cilantro haters. Also: all vegetable amounts can be increased or decreased depending on how much you enjoy them. The only science in this recipe is the ratio of quinoa to water (1:2). And this salad comes out quite small, enough for maybe 2-4 people. Doubling may be necessary.

Quinoa salad with lime and cilantro

½ c. quinoa
1 c. water

3 scallions, chopped
4-5 medium radishes, sliced thin
1 medium zucchini, sliced ½ ich
2 c. water
2-3 limes, depending on juicy-ness
2 tbs. olive oil
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (or more, depending on your taste)
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkles of chili powder

  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve. Rinsing the quinoa is key, otherwise it will taste bitter. Place quinoa and water in a saucepan, bring water to a boil, lower, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the edges of the grains are translucent. Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
  2. Boil second round of water in the same pot that you used for the quinoa with some salt – drop in the sliced zucchini and cook for just a few minutes. Drain and put into the fridge with you quinoa.
  3. Chop/slice scallions, radishes*, and cilantro. Mix them in with the quinoa and zucchini, add lime juice**, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili powder. If you want to get really serious, refrigerate the salad with all ingredients except for the lime juice and olive oil. Add those two ingredients immediately before serving***.

*If you hate the bitterness of radishes like I do, try the following trick: (courtesy of my dad!) put the chopped radishes in a small dish with about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let stand for 5 minutes, then rinse a few times. The salt absorbs a lot of the bitterness.

**A citrus trick I learned from a certain glass lady, who learned it from her mom. To get a more intense flavor from a lime or a lemon, use everything but the peel: quarter it lengthwise (as if you were going to put it into a drink), then remove the peel from each quarter and chop the flesh. This is especially good in dips when you are using a food processor, as you can smooth the flesh of the lemon or lime into the rest of the dip. But in a salad, you can use the flesh of one of the lemons or limes and just the juice of the rest of them. In this particular salad, I used the flesh of 1 lime and the juice of the other.

***The main problem with grain-based salads is that the intense flavor you might taste when you cook it tends to fade in the refrigerator because the grains absorb it. This is why if you’re preparing this or any main dish salad in advance, make sure to add the dressing/lemon juice/olive oil just before you serve it.


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