You don't have to twist my arm to fool around in the kitchen with quinoa. Quinoa and I have been flirting around with each other for over a year now even though so far its nothing too serious. We were first introduced by a mutual friend and while it wasn’t all electricity and sparks it was the beginning of a good Friendship with Benefits. This weeks French Fridays with Dorie experience has me thinking that perhaps I should seek more of a commitment. Quinoa is a keeper.
Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wa”) and I first met a year or so ago when my friend Leslie , the chef presiding at Barrister Bites, introduced us via her frequent blog posts covering its delights sometime last year. Ms. Barrister taught me that the popular quinoa is actually not a grain or cereal at all but rather a seed from plants that resemble beets and spinach (the Amarathaceae family) as opposed grasses that produce more carb heavy grains. Quinoa as a food staple originated in South America and was domesticated nearly 4000 years ago back when the Incas loved it so much they considered it a sacred crop. Its association with non-Christian ceremonies eventually provoked the conquistadors to prohibit its cultivation in favor of western wheat crops. Religious zealots can be such kill-joys.
(Ms. Barrister didn't actually teach me all of that. I looked it all up just now on Wikipedia. Bloggers do that a lot by the way.)
Her Barristership did enlighten me to the fact that quinoa, with up to 14 grams per serving, is a more complete protein than any grain or rice. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, Vitamin E, potassium, amino acids, and fiber. All Friends With Benefits should have such benefits! Certainly the conquistadors would have changed their mind had they only known how South Beach Diet friendly this food can be.
Quinoa is as simple to cook as rice. Like rice it takes well to any flavor you want to throw at it. These are all great qualities to have in a friend I should think. Ms. Barrister being a fan of ethic foods shared her choices for using it with savory flavors such as Summer Veggies with Cajun Shrimp and my personal favorite, Quinoa with Chicken and Pesto.
Dorie’s non-recipe version gives a nod to quinoa’s inherent flexibility and Zelig-like character by suggesting we mix it with any combination of dried fruit, nuts, and herbs of our choice. Somehow this makes it “French”? (And by the way, is there nothing that Dorie won’t stuff with dried fruits and nuts?)
I took inspiration from Ms. Barrister’s Quinoa Tex Mex Tacos and served Dorie’s salad as an appetizer wrapped in Butter Lettuce leaves reveaing even more versatility. I had pistachios left over from my last Dorie variation on a theme. Chopped parsley and mint worked perfectly with the ginger dressing and yogurt with mint seemed a natural mix. I did add a little salt and pepper to the dressing as salting the boiling water wasn't enough to get the flavors to do their thing. The final palette ended up being quite Persian-esque for a supposedly Parisian dish but then again some of my favorite Persians really do live in Paris with French tables of their own.
This Friend With Benefits is a keeper, destined to show up as my date this summer served with grilled meats or as my contribution to a summer picnic potluck.
Be sure to check out the other Dorista's experiences with this dish. Its been dating around while it still can.
Quinoa Fruit and Nut Salad
For the quinoa:
- 1 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2/3 cup dried zante currants
- 1/3 cup dried golden raisins
- 1/3 cup chopped almonds
- 1/3 cup chopped pistachio meats
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons walnut oil
Combine dressing ingredient in a small jar and shake well. Add to quinoa and mix well. Cover salad and let sit to blend flavors.
Serve over salad greens or in lettuce cups with a dollop of plain yogurt or a drizzle of extra dressing and lemon zest.