Wheatless Wednesday – Winter Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

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New year equals new ideas.  The holidays might be over but that doesn’t mean the presents have to stop!  I finally decided to order a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box loaded with produce fresh from a local farm delivered right to my door – And my first one came today!  Even though I was the one to order it, I still felt ridiculously excited to see two boxes with their mystery contents at my doorstep this morning when I got up. It felt like Christmas and Hanukkah all over again.  Some of us will go to great lengths to extend the holiday season…  For those that don’t know, CSA is an alternative ‘farm to table’ method for distribution of produce. Consumers sign up with a local company who arranges personalized home delivery of organically and locally grown fruits and vegetables.  I signed with Farm Fresh to You, who supplies produce from Capay Organic Farm located about 90 miles Northeast of San Francisco.  I chose the Traditional CSA Box but they offer many types and sizes of boxes, like Fruit or Vegetable Only, even a ‘No Cooking Box’.  I decided to try this for a few reasons.  First, I love fresh produce and in the winter, my garden is a bit sparse (because I’m a fair weather gardener).  I also like supporting local farmers and eating with the season. Lastly, instead of going to the market and hand selecting items for dinner, I thought to stretch my creativity by having to figure out what delicious meals to make with the contents of my mystery boxes.

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What was in my box?  Butternut squash, beets, rainbow carrots, Treviso radicchio, kiwis, baby bok choy, watermelon radish, fennel, red d’anjou pears, pink lady apples and assorted lettuce. Whew! After mulling the many possible ways dinner could go, I opted to use the most perishable items first, like lettuce.  So salad it is… Winter Greens with thinly sliced pears, watermelon radish and avocado, coated with yummy crispy quinoa and crumbly feta with a few pistachios thrown into the mix. I added quinoa, not only to give my salad a nutrient boost with it’s high protein content and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and iron, but also to enhance the taste and feel of the salad.  When tossed with a simple vinaigrette, the crispy quinoa bits collect on the veggies making each bite a tasty treasure.

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I first had crispy quinoa in a salad at Tamalpie Pizza in Mill Valley, CA.  I was instantly enamored and only slightly dismayed to hear that the quinoa was deep fried.  It was such a great concept, that quinoa can be transformed almost into something else.  I don’t remember what else was in that salad except for leafy greens (and it is not currently listed on their menu, darn) so I made up my own salad with some help from my CSA box.

TIPS: Always rinse quinoa before cooking (unless the packaging says that it has been pre-rinsed) to remove any remaining saponins, a naturally occurring but bitter substance that the plant produces to protect itself from predators (smart, huh?)  Use a fine mesh colander so you don’t lose any of the tiny grains.

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WINTER GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

1/2 cup dry quinoa (any kind) or 3/4 cup cooked
1 Tbsn high heat oil like coconut or avocado (not olive oil)
1 head or 4 cups assorted lettuces
5-6 radicchio leaves
1-2 watermelon radish
1 d’anjou pear
1/4 cup pistachios (or roasted hazelnuts)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)

Vinaigrette: (1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add 1/2 tsp of either cumin or Italian seasoning or any fresh herbs)

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  • Rinse quinoa and simmer in salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  All water should be absorbed.  Let cool.

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  • Heat 1 Tbsn oil in a skillet until almost smoking and add in the cooked quinoa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa pops and sizzles and turns crispy, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

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  • Cut or tear the larger lettuce leaves into pieces. Slice the radicchio

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  • Thinly slice the radish, pear and avocado.

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  • Sprinkle the cooled quinoa on top of the salad greens

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  • Top with the sliced pear, radish, avocado, pistachios and feta.

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  • Dress sparingly with the vinaigrette and toss gently. Serve with more vinaigrette and feta on the side

 

Winter Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/2 cup dry quinoa (any kind) or 3/4 cup cooked
1-2 Tbsn high heat oil like coconut or avocado (not olive oil)
1 head or 4 cups assorted lettuces
5-6 radicchio leaves
1-2 watermelon radish
1 d’anjou pear
1/4 cup pistachios (or roasted hazelnuts)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)

Vinaigrette: (1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add 1/2 tsp of either cumin or Italian seasoning or any fresh herbs)

  • Rinse quinoa and simmer in salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  All water should be absorbed.  Let cool.
  • Heat 1 Tbsn oil in a skillet until almost smoking and add in the cooked quinoa.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa pops and sizzles and turns crispy, about 5 minutes. Let cool in the
  • Cut or tear the larger lettuce leaves into pieces.
  • Slice the radicchio
  • Thinly slice the radish, pear and avocado.
  • Sprinkle the cooled quinoa on top of the salad greens
  • Top with the sliced pear, radish, avocado, pistachios and feta.
  • Dress sparingly with the vinaigrette and toss gently.
  • Serve with more vinaigrette and feta on the side

 

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Roasted Maple Glazed Acorn Squash, Apples and Pecans over Rainbow Quinoa

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The time when you find the perfect balance between savory with a touch of sweet… By George, this is it!  Now if I could just find the same balance in my life all would be good, although we are trending in the right direction.  Next week my youngest turns 20, signaling the end of thirteen years of the ‘terrible teens’ which were both better and worse than I expected. Teenagers are actually pretty wonderful, young people (most of the time), they just happen to come with loads of friends (and friends of friends) with enormous appetites, and they use a lot of towels.   Alas, time marches on and we are finding our new balance, a lot of sweet and a bit of savory. Life is good…

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I loved this acorn squash way more than I was expecting and I didn’t even have the urge to add cheese.  This is a vegan dish that you will love and it will love you back by providing loads of healthy plant based  protein, vitamins and minerals! I got the inspiration from a recipe by Edible Perspective and added more savories like ‘sweet’ onion, fresh sage, elephant garlic and whole pecans. Somehow all the flavors come together.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I have always loved the shape of acorn squash.  When cut into circles they remind me of cartoon flowers.  This dish can also be made super casual with everything chopped and cooked jumbled together in a baking dish (I often do this).  The flavors are still wonderful, but it’s less of a presentation.  I really love the visual of the circles and wedges. It’s kind of like a cross between serving halved squash and a vegetable medley.  The slices are certainly less of a commitment to eat than an entire half and since they are uniform in size, they take less time for that perfect cook.  You can also chop the apples, onions, garlic, sage and pecans and stuff the slices for an impressive presentation, although you may need to add an egg to keep the filling together .  I’m sure I will give that a whirl sometime soon, perhaps for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

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Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (rainbow or plain)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium acorn squash
2 large cloves elephant garlic (optional)
2 large sweet onions
small bunch fresh sage
2 apples
3 Tbsn olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt + pepper

Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
salt + pepper to taste

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  • Preheat your oven to 425* F.  Rinse and cook quinoa, if making, in vegetable broth according to instructions. Cover and set aside.

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  • Cut acorn squash in half crosswise and scoop out seeds.

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  • Slice into 1/2 inch rings

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  • Cut elephant garlic into slices.

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  • Cut the dried roots off the onions leaving the  core intact (you want the slices to stay together).  Slice into thin wedges.

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  • Combine the oil, maple syrup and cayenne (if using) in a small bowl. Place squash, garlic and onions in a large lightly oiled baking dish and sprinkle/brush with oil misture to cover. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Place as many squash as possible in a single layer on the bottom of the pan for proper browning, even if you have to use two pans.
  • Roughly chop sage. Core and thinly slice apples.  Spritz with lemon juice if not using right away to prevent browning.

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  • Remove pan from oven. Turn vegetables. Add the apples, pecans and sage.  Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.  You can broil the last five minutes but watch the pecans because they can burn.

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  • Serve over quinoa and sprinkle with vinaigrette.

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Roasted Acorn Squash, Apples and Pecans over Rainbow Quinoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Roasted Acorn Squash1

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (rainbow or plain)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium acorn squash
2-3 large cloves elephant garlic (optional)
2 large sweet onions
small bunch fresh sage
2 apples
3 Tbsn olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt + pepper

Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
salt + pepper to taste

  • Preheat your oven to 425* F.  Rinse and cook quinoa, if making, in vegetable broth according to instructions. Cover and set aside.
  • Cut acorn squash in half crosswise and scoop out seeds.
  • Slice into 1/2 inch rings
  • Slice elephant garlic into slices.
  • Cut the dried roots off the onions leaving the  core intact (you want the slices to stay together).  Slice into thin wedges.
  • Combine the oil, maple syrup and cayenne (if using) in a small bowl
  • Place squash, garlic and onions in a large baking dish and sprinkle/brush with oil misture to cover.  Place as many squash as possible in a single layer on the bottom of the pan for proper browning, even if you have to use two pans. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Roughly chop sage. Core and thinly slice apples.  Spritz with lemon juice if not using right away to prevent browning.
  • Remove pan from oven. Turn vegetables. Add the apples, pecans and sage.  Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.  You can broil the last five minutes but watch the pecans as they can burn.
  • Serve over quinoa and sprinkle with vinaigrette