Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quinoa Salad Recipe

This summer is tumbling me off my very practiced balance. It is a summer of grief, of loss, of endings; it has made me lose my appetite. An unwelcome heaviness has curled up on my chest, and that same inhibiting force convinces me to sit on the couch and hazily watch Top Chef Masters, episode after episode, instead of picking up a knife and making something. It enables me to step over my still-unpacked suitcase and rummage around in it, attempting to find something clean and vaguely cool so the world isn’t immediately aware of the inside mess my outside is only a wayward outfit away from becoming.

After making nearly 200 works, and sustaining a company for 60 years, Merce Cunningham, the choreographer with whom I worked, died on July 26th, 2009, at the age of 90. Merce, a dedicated macrobiotic, cheated on his diet from time to time. I know, we toured together, and sometimes ate together in various cities around the world. Once, at a Persian restaurant in Orange County (or was it LA?), I ordered a minty yogurt spread, and Merce, seated across from me, and hearing how phenomenal it was, sneakily reached over his glass of Oregonian merlot to have a bit of forbidden dairy. But mostly, he was committed to macrobiotic eating, and my memories are of tour meals at carefully chosen couscous restaurants, or, while working in NYC, of watching Merce eat pita bread with hummus or almond butter for lunch, raisins for dessert.

One time, my friend and colleague, Tom, and I were invited to Merce’s house to make dinner for him. I nervously grilled salmon fillets on his indoor grill, practicing achieving the lattice work grill marks I’d learned in culinary school, and then, through a friend, I happily learned that Merce had talked positively about that salmon for over a week. Later, after marrying, and to celebrate with the man who brought us together, I made baked tempeh over vegetable quinoa, and a warm bok choy salad with shiitake mushrooms and scallions. Merce said he wasn’t sure when I asked him if he liked tempeh, but a request for seconds, and a clean plate was the evidence.

My regular diet is home-cooked, mostly vegetarian, nearly one-hundred percent organic, and full of beans, grains, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits. After recent escapist meals of late-night San Loco tacos, slices of pizza, and restaurant nachos, I knew I needed to break the trend. This salad is refreshing, delicious, and full of antioxidant rich vegetables and protein rich quinoa. Merce, I’ve been cheating on my diet, too, and in a much unhealthier way than a couple of bites of yogurt. Here is my first attempt on the road to recovery. I miss you, Merce.

Quinoa Salad
From Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

Note from Banu: I often change the ingredients of this salad, depending on what’s at the market. Sometimes I leave out the corn; I might leave the red onion raw. This week I made it with raw beets and sweet potatoes. It lends itself to lots of variations, so experiment. This is truly one of my favorite things to make when I am in need of a healthy meal. It is light, flavorful, filling, and dense with nutrients.

For the Salad:

1/3 cup hulled sesame seeds
1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup arame
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch red radishes (8 to 10), trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, grated

For the Marinade:

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch cilantro (about 1 cup), trimmed, leaves and tender stems chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse sea salt
Freshly milled black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Pour them into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Combine the arame with 2 cups warm water and set aside to swell for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the 1 1/2 cups water and salt to a boil. Add the quinoa. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.

In a pot fitted with a steamer, combine the corn kernels with the red onion. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove to a colander and chill under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.

To make the marinade, in a large mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno pepper, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste. Whisk well.

Add the toasted seeds, quinoa, steamed vegetables, red pepper, radishes, carrot, and arame to the marinade. Mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marry the flavors.

Taste for seasoning, add more salt and black pepper, if desired, and serve.

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Millet and Quinoa with Beets and Scallions Recipe, Swiss Chard, Lentils, and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley and Garlic Yogurt Recipe, Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds Recipe


holley said...

Banu, thanks for a wonderful, life affirming menu for the day. Absolutely delicious!

Pekin said...

You brought tears to my eyes.. Again!!
Please do keep on blogging!!
Love you tons