Keen on Quinoa
Quinoa gets a lift from crisp summer veggies in this simple, satisfying salad.
By Deborah Willoughby
The ideal summer meal is cool, light, tasty, and bursting with garden-fresh vegetables. A main-dish salad is a good option, but if it’s missing a high-quality protein, you’re likely to find yourself casting about for a snack in an hour or two. But build a salad around quinoa and you’ll have a dish with staying power that’s still light enough for a summer day.
With a fluffy texture and a nutty flavor, quinoa is often thought of as a grain because it cooks like one, but it’s actually the seed of a leafy plant native to the Andes. It was prized by the Incas for its stamina-boosting effects and because it’s easy to grow—the plant thrives in poor soil, requires little water, and coats its seeds with a bitter substance unpalatable to birds and other predators. In addition to supplying a high concentration of all nine essential amino acids—making it a complete vegetarian protein—quinoa is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and riboflavin. On top of that, it’s naturally gluten-free and easy to digest.
Yield: 4 servings
1½ cups quinoa, well-rinsed
3 cups water or vegetable stock
½ pound sugar snap or snow peas
½ cup scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup pumpkin seeds (roasted or raw)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
1. Rinse the quinoa three or four times in cold water to remove all traces of saponin, the bitter substance that coats the seeds.
2. Bring the water or stock to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to boiling, and immediately reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. The trick is to avoid overcooking: the quinoa is done when the seeds are translucent and sporting a tiny white tail. Drain immediately and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
3. Toss the cooled quinoa with the pod peas, pumpkin seeds, and scallions.
4 Whisk the oil, vinegar, and salt together, dress the salad, and serve.
This salad is at its best in early summer as a showcase for the sugar snap peas, snow peas, and scallions that make their debut in late May. If peas aren’t available yet, substitute asparagus spears. As mid-summer comes on, adapt the recipe with what’s in your garden or a nearby farmers’ market. Substitute the edible-pod peas with tender shelled varieties or with baby broccoli. For color contrast, try tender purple pole beans (lightly blanched). If you can’t find scallions, use chives. Experiment with toasted sunflower seeds or slivered toasted almonds in place of pumpkin seeds. Try using lemon juice instead of vinegar. Keep it fresh and this salad will satisfy all summer long.
Deborah Willoughby is president emerita of the Himalayan Institute and the founding editor of Yoga International.
Photo by Jagati