Over the past year or so, I have been noticing that Quinoa has been taking the food world by storm. Now maybe it is just because I spend most of my free time reading about, studying and talking about food...that might be it...but I have seen references to this grain-like substance everywhere- on TV, in magazines, in any number of blogs, and on menus. Now, of course, Quinoa has been around for centuries, dating back all the way to the time of the Inca's, but for some reason it didn't seem to hit my radar until recently. It seems now that it is one those "wonder" foods that is just jam packed with nutrients, and is tasty to boot. Studies that I have read have found it to be extremely high in protein, offering us a more complete source for protein than other vegetables, and it is also high in fiber and iron. It is also, apparently, gluten free which is fantastic. So, the other day I wanted to make a light summer salad, something that would be filling but not weighty, something hearty, but still light. I decided to try my hand at Quinoa for the very first time.
Now, I have had Quinoa before, in restaurants, but having never cooked it before, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I decided to make a chilled salad, containing all of those light summer ingredients- sweet corn, lemon, shrimp, even some arugula. I started by boiling the Quinoa in two cups of chicken stock to add some extra flavor to it. The recipe said two cups of water- but thought-why not amp it up some? I'm sure though it would be tasty with just water as well. At the same time, in a separate pot, I boiled up three ears of fresh corn as well. Once it was all done cooking, I just strained the Quinoa-which is actually a seed-, removed the corn from the water, and set everything aside to cool. Then, I lightly salted and peppered some beautiful fresh shrimp and then grilled them on my stove top grill pan. So far- this was an easy-peasy meal.
I wanted everything to cool before eating, so I set the shrimp aside as well until it got closer to dinner time. When I felt it was about "that time" I removed the corn from its ears, then I chopped up some veggies (cucumber, red onion, sugar snap peas) and a small handful of parsley, and placed them in a large container. I added a few handfuls of baby arugula, and several heaping spoonfuls of the Quinoa. I also added a generous crumble of Ricotta Salata- which may be one of my very favorite cheeses in salads.
I made just a quick dressing as well- a simple vinaigrette with the juice of a lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, a sprinkle of Italian Seasoning, and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. I tossed the salad in the dressing, and then laid the shrimp over the top.
This was a perfect meal for a hot summer night. The salad itself was cool, but really quite filling, especially when used as a side dish to a hearty hamburger! The Quinoa itself had an almost nutty flavor, but a texture similar to brown rice, though it didn't leave you with that "stuffed" feeling. I loved the combination of all of the other ingredients as well! Parsley-with its incredible "fresh" flavor is one of my favorite raw herbs that I just don't use raw enough. I feel as though it always lends itself so well to citrus flavors and yet I often fall into the rut of using it primarily in marinara sauces, or in soups. Parsley-I have neglected you long enough! It combined so nicely with the peppery arugula, as well as the slightly salty Ricotta Salata and the sweet corn.
I really loved how all of the flavors and textures came together for this salad- it is definitely one I will be enjoying again. I can also imagine all of the great combinations that can can be made with different proteins- steak or tuna- delicious!