Don’t fear the Quinoa! Crunchy Quinoa Salad.

Quinoa. Pronounced “keen-wah”. What the heck is it? It’s a grain-like seed from Peru that is incredibly healthy (high in protein, and full of amino acids) and quite tasty too!
You basically can use it as a healthier substitute most places you would use rice or couscous.

I found mine at Trader Joe’s… but if you can’t find it at your local supermarket, you can order quinoa off the internet. (Quinoa at Amazon & Red Quinoa-which would be good in this dish too)

Have you tried cooking quinoa yet? I hadn’t (although Niki has!), so I figured for a first attempt I would try an adaptation of my ‘go to’ Asian pasta salad, but with quinoa! … and I must say it came out wonderfully. Make this at least several hours ahead of when you want to serve it, to allow time to chill thoroughly.

A note on preparation.  I tend to make salads like this based on what I have on hand.  So take the ingredients list as an opportunity to be creative!  I always keep soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil, and sesame oil in my pantry, since they are useful in so many dishes (like this! and this!  and this!).  I also keep canned chickpeas and frozen edamame on hand at all times.  Other beans would be great in this dish as an alternate.  I happened to have fresh parsley in the fridge, but other fresh herbs could easily substitute.  This version contains chicken–because I had one lone chicken breast that needed to be used–, but that could easily be left out with no ill effects for a vegetarian main dish, or a side dish.

Crunchy Quinoa Salad

(serves 2 as a main dish, with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day)

  • 1 boneless chicken breast.
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 teas diced garlic (optional)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 sm can diced water chestnuts
  • 1-2 cups hulled edamame (I always keep a bag in the freezer!)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped.

Dressing (in a pinch- substitute your favorite Asian inspired salad dressing):

  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/4 c seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1 tbls sesame oil
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley (basil would be a nice alternative)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • black pepper

Prepare Quinoa (can be done in advance):

Most quinoa you buy boxed in the grocery stores these days comes prewashed, but it’s a good idea to rinse thoroughly prior to use anyway (quinoa has a non-tasty coating that must be removed prior to cooking).  Follow your package directions.  Bring 2 cups of broth to a boil, add 1 c quinoa, and cook on low for ~15 minutes or until broth has been absorbed.  This is basically just like cooking rice.  Remove to a bowl and chill.

Prepare chicken and vegetables.

Salt & pepper chicken breast, and dice into even, small, chunks.

In a medium skillet (drizzled with olive oil) cook the chicken, onion and garlic.  Cook the chicken for approx 2 minutes on each side (depends on size), or until just cooked through.

Add the frozen edamame and the diced celery to the pan, tossing with the chicken and.  Cook for another minute or so,  or until the edamame is thawed (celery will be just slightly cooked–still crunchy)

Remove contents of pan to a separate bowl, add chickpeas and water chesnuts, and chill in the fridge.

Combine it all…

In large bowl (large enough to hold final dish), mix together dressing components.  Add quinoa, chicken, and vegetables.  Toss gently to coat everything in the dressing.  (If you don’t seem to have enough dressing, add approximately equal parts olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce).  Chill until ready to serve. Taste before serving… if necessary add an additional splash of rice vinegar, or salt & pepper to taste.

A squeeze of fresh lime would be an excellent accompaniment at serving time…

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