According to the calendar, Spring will be here in two weeks. According to what I see out my window… it may be here in name only. There is nearly two feet of snow in my yard, I have to put on a jacket to get the mail, and don’t even get me started on the pot holes and giant snow banks.
For those of us in the Midwest this has been the Winter of Our Hibernation. As with many hibernating animals I have put on an extra layer of fat to sustain me through these frigid times. What was comfort from the cold is now displeasure in the mirror.
Comfort food gives us comfort, and I’ve taken more than my share of it lately. Now the time has come to look at lighter and healthier food. First on the menu board is Quinoa
This “super food” has been the darling of the food world for some time. It is rich in fiber and vitamins, and has essential amino acids that make it a complete protein. It cooks in the same manner and time as rice, but is a lot more interesting both in taste and appearance. The little spirals which are actually the germ make an interesting presentation especially in the red and black varieties.
It makes a great side dish embellished or not, It can be eaten as a hot cereal for breakfast with dried fruit and a sprinkling of nuts. I haven’t found a vegetable that it doesn’t like, making wonderful salads that put the pasta variety to shame. I think Quinoa with a plethora of veggies and a light dressing is a great lunch or light supper.This is an Italian inspired salad. The quinoa is joined by sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and olives, Dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it is an antipasto tray that eats like a meal
Southwestern flavors also have an affinity with quinoa. This is possibly my favorite Quinoa salad. Roasted poblano peppers and corn, black beans, red bell peppers, onions and tomatoes are combined with cilantro, avocado and a garlic lime dressing.
The Southwestern flavors coupled with the nutty chewiness of the quinoa make a one dish meal the is good and good for you. The veggies are chopped in small dice that compliment the quinoa and make for easy eating.
The dressing starts with canola oil that gently heats with minced garlic and cumin seeds. Lime zest, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of Agave Nectar combine with lime juice and ground cumin to create a flavor burst that brings the whole thing together.
NOTE: To make 3 cups of cooked quinoa; Rinse 1 cup of quinoa under cold water for 2 minutes and allow to drain. Combine with 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Quinoa should be al dente. Drain off any water that might be left in the pan.
Make either of these salads at least a few hours ahead so that the flavors have chance to get acquainted. They can mellow in the refrigerator, but let them sit out for about 15 minutes before serving. The color and texture are interesting and the flavor is incredible.
I’m taking the first steps to lighter and healthier food. Just like Winter is the season for comfort, Spring is the season for light and bright in the air and in the kitchen.
Love, Mama D