Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yes, it's finally Quinoa Lentil Salad Time

I've written about it two or three times in my blog, so I thought it's now time to share this with you!

I remember the first time I heard the word quinoa and I was like “king-what?”…and really paid no attention to it.  But I’m hearing it in more and more recipes and hearing how it is a whole grain that is a great source of protein and I wanted to check it out.  I looked it up online and saw that it really isn’t a grain, but a seed of a plant (related to spinach) – and since I love spinach, I figured how bad could quinoa be…?

Well, months go by and I don’t do anything about it…Until I saw a recipe on the Food Network and decided I had to try this…it’s so simple and my lazy self loves the idea of being able to make a salad that is filling, nutritious and (crossed my fingers and hoped it would be) delicious.  

So – off I go to Stop & Shop and buy a box of white quinoa (yes, there are colors!) and a bag of lentils…Two ingredients I have NEVER cooked with … and geared myself up to make this recipe.

And the stuff sat in my pantry for easily six months.  Yes folks, I am that lazy…and especially with ingredients I’ve never used before – I almost am intimidated by them.  Almost…

Then one afternoon, I’m going to a BBQ at my friend’s house and need something to bring.  Having nothing in the house and not wanting to go shopping, I decided to let my friends be my guinea pigs.  Nice of me, right?  This could have been disgusting, but I’m willing to let my friends jump into the quinoa pool. 

So this is what you need to make the quinoa:
½ cup quinoa
1 ¼ cups of water (or chicken stock)*

And for the Lentils
2 cups of water (again, or chicken stock)
½ cup lentils

*note – you can cook all of this in chicken stock or vegetable stock…to impart flavor…however I originally used water as directed – the recipe came out just fine.

OK – Let’s address the Lentils:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water.  Then add them to the saucepan that has the 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer – let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.  (I did fined that 30 minutes was just right)
 Drain and set aside in a bowl.

The quinoa:  Put them in a sieve and rinse with cold water too (ah…yes, separately from the lentils!).  Put with the 1 ¼ cups of water in a large microwave bowl with a cover and nuke it on high for 9 minutes.

Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir.  The quinoa absorbs all of the liquid (if it doesn’t – cook a bit longer) and when done it will have a consistency a bit tougher than sort of a cream of wheat…it kind of ‘pops’ when you bite into it.   
(Kids, if you don’t have a cover to your dish, and you just cover with plastic wrap, you’ll need to just about double your cooking time!)

Put the quinoa in the bowl with the lentils.

Now here is where I deviated from the original recipe that wanted you to make your own vinaigrette – and not that there is anything wrong with that, but when you have perfectly fine Good Seasons Italian Dressing, why wouldn’t I use that? (Of Course you can make your own vinaigrette or use your desired Italian style dressing of choice).

So I add into the quinoa/lentil bowl: 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, salt (not a lot) and pepper to taste and about ¼ cup (to taste) of the pre-made Good Seasons Italian Dressing.  Combine with the quinoa/lentil salad and then taste – see if you need more dressing or not.  Not salty enough…That’s OK – I then added two large handfuls of Parmesan cheese!  It added that salty, nutty, creaminess that I was looking for! 

Done!  Or just about... :)

This salad is great just as is...Hot, Room Temp or even cold...but it also has "expandable" possibilities!

Want a bit more crunch?  Throw in a few handfuls of either Pine Nuts or Slivered Almonds...

Or cube up some feta cheese, halve some grape tomatoes, dice in 1/4 of an English cucumber and toss in a touch of oregano and you have a great Mediterranean salad.

Top with some cooked shrimp, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1/2 can of rinsed black beans, a dash of cumin and chili seasoning for a Mexican inspired dish (I'd even top it with a touch of Cheddar and Sour Cream).

Or just go all veggie on it and dice up some green onion, red peppers, (blanched) asparagus tips...what ever you have in the house!  Then crumble a bit of goat cheese on top...Yum!

Try this one sits well in the fridge, so I usually double the recipe and will have it for the occasional breakfast, lunch or a side with dinner (if I don't throw some chicken in it and have it for dinner!).

Until Next Time...

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