Saturday, September 25, 2010

Healthy Quinoa Salad--Tabbouleh from South America

It is fall, but only on a calendar. Yesterday, on the third day of autumn, thermometers in DC showed again almost 100F. We still run around in flip flops (Thank God not in crocks any longer), while in some parts of Europe girls have already started to wear boots and warm coats. People in Central Europe eat hot soups and drink hot tea, while we keep grilling and refresh ourseleves with cold drinks. And, although pumpkins already preside over my kitchen counter, I still make summer food.

I have prepared another salad today. This was my best choice for such a hot day. I used quinoa, something very healthy. You may say that "healthy" is a very popular word when it comes to salads. By the way, can salad be unhealthy? It seems to be in its definition to be healthy, like no other food. But quinoa is definitely very healthy.

But what is it? It is not a classic grain, although it looks like cous cous or bulgar wheat. Quinoa comes from South America. It is a so-called psudocereal and, surprisingly, it is related to beets and spinach. It is gluten free and a complete source of protein, also rich in magnesium and iron.

Recently, probably because of its nutritious values, quinoa became more widely available at food stores. For this salad, I bought plain white quinoa at Trader Joe's. But you could also get there organic, white or red quinoa. When cooked, quinoa looks like grains with tiny sprouts.

I made a salad similar to the very popular tabbouleh, which could be served as a meal in itself for lunch or as an accompaniment to grilled meats, for example. As quinoa is rather neutral in taste, to enhance it, I used watercress with its peppery and tangy flavor. I served it with quarters of fresh figs, a seasonal addition, that gave the whole salad a slightly sweet taste.

Quinoa Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa,
1/2 English cucumber,
1 pint cherry tomatoes,
1 cup watercress--preferably leaves only,
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts,
4 fresh figs (optional),
juice from 1/2 lemon,
3 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper.

1. Cook quinoa according to instruction on the box (usually 1 part of quinoa in 2 parts of water) and cool it down.
2. Peel the cucumber and cut it into small cubes.
3. Cut tomatoes in half.
4. Combine all the vegetables, watercress, and pine nuts with quinoa.
5. Add lemon juice, oil, and season with salt and pepper.
6. Decorate with figs and serve.

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