Monday, January 13, 2014

My most requested recipe: Potluck Quinoa and vegetable Salad

My most requested recipe: Potluck Quinoa Tossed Salad with sweet and sour dressing

I am always getting asked for this recipe. Every time I take it to a potluck or serve it for dinner everyone wants the recipe. Actually I should rephrase that a little. All of the women who try this salad ask for the recipe.

I like to keep the fruit in a separate bag until I am ready to serve, I layer the salad with the nuts and seeds on top. Dress the salad with dressing and add the fruit just before serving.

I have taken this salad to one friend’s home twice and at both dinner parties, I found all of the women hiding in the kitchen after dinner having seconds and thirds of the salad. Whenever I run into someone who has eaten this salad they ask me for the recipe. I had a request again on New Year’s Eve. Our guest had a call from a friend who found out she was at our home and requested that she get the recipe. I started to compile pictures and data for this salad in the summer, but every time I made it I forgot to get a final picture of the salad before serving. This time the finished photos are not great but at least I have a picture.

The best thing about this salad is how versatile it is. You can make a few changes to some of the ingredients depending on the season and it does not affect the distinct flavor of the salad. This is a choice I especially like to take to a potluck meal as it is loaded with good, fresh foods. As I have so many acute foods allergies and Celiac disease, going to a potluck is a risky eating experience. This salad is free of many common allergy foods, except for nuts. It is also very filling and would meet my culinary needs for a meal, even if this was the only food I could eat from the potluck meal. It is important to take something you can eat yourself when you go to such a function as it may be the only thing that is safe for you to eat. I am not going to ramble anymore as I am going to let this salad speak for itself.

This is a beautiful blend of sweet and savory flavors tossed with wholesome goodness. I always start this salad very traditional with half a bowl of mixed greens or chopped romaine. The mixed greens give you a wonderful array of sweet and bitter. The romaine is very hardy and stands up well to the dressing.

 I usually just go with whatever lettuce or salad mix looks the freshest. I then like to add a large handful of bright red cherry tomatoes. They are a great source of natural lycopene. 

I like to use the cherry tomatoes rather than larger chopped tomatoes so they last longer in the salad. These days we are able to get beautiful hot house cherry tomatoes all year long. There is really no reason you cannot use fresh chopped tomato if that is what you have on hand.

I also like to add chopped green onion and cucumber too.

Long english cucumbers are my favorite choice as they do not need to be peeled or seeded. They are just so crisp and fresh tasting.  If you can find them try the little baby cucumbers, they are very tender and sweet.

Baby english cucumbers, I always use them when I can find them.

 So far this salad is pretty average, nothing really too exciting so far. Now is when I start to play with the ingredients.  I love using chopped daikon radish or white radish in my salad too. You can use regular radishes, like in the spring when they are fresh from the garden, but in the winter I love the daikon.

 It has a milder taste than the smaller radishes. It can provide a quarter of the RDA of vitamin C to your diet. I also find it faster and easier to clean and prepare for a salad. It comes in one large chunk and you need only peel it and chop it into small bite size pieces. It1 stores very well in the refrigerator too. Many groceries cut them into more manageable sizes as they can be pretty large. They are usually found in the oriental produce section of the produce department. I like that radishes add a nice kick to the finished salad.

So what makes this salad special, because so far it is pretty average? Now that you have a base salad you can start to play with the remaining ingredients. I especially like to add toasted nuts. My first choice is usually pecans and pumpkin seeds (Pepita). I always toast my nuts in the oven or a pan to bring out the flavour of the nuts. Just watch your nuts very careful. You want to toast them long enough to bring out the toasted flavour and not so long that they burn (which can happen really fast).

One of the best tests for toasting the doneness of your nuts is by sight, the colour of your nuts should deepen a little and aroma, they will begin to envelope your kitchen in a wonderful nutty scent. When you toast your nuts it releases their natural essential oils and makes their flavour more complex. This changes them from their raw state, and they become more fragrant and flavourful. This is one step you do not want to skip. When you listen to a chef talking about cooking they bring up the subject of adding depth of flavour to a recipe, this is one of those times, roasting nuts add a depth of flavour and texture to your recipe Nuts can be roasted in a stove top pan or in the microwave, but I prefer oven roasting. If you overcook your nuts they will have a strong burned flavour. So be careful and attentive while doing your roasting. It is usually best if you chop your nuts after they are roasted as they roast much faster when they are chopped. Set your timer for the lowest time and then watch them very closely after that.

10 minutes
8-10 minutes
12-15 minutes
Macadamia Nuts
12-15 minutes
10-15 minutes
Pepitos (Pumpkin Seeds)
10 minutes
Pine Nuts
5 minutes
10-15 minutes

The next ingredients are changeable depending on the season. I like to add some fresh fruit or berries depending on what is in season. Grapes, blueberries, apple, pear, pomegranate seeds or strawberries, just choose what is the freshest and in season. The contrast of sweet fruit and toasted nuts make this salad amazing. I only choose one fruit per salad to keep the flavors clean. If you add too many ingredients the flavors get to complex. I also love to add a cup of dried cranberries. They are a fruit but they are also tart. 

I also add one cup of cooked quinoa. The best quinoa is cooked 1 cup of dried quinoa with a clove of fresh garlic, crushed and half of a red onion chopped. Add 2 cups of gluten free chicken stock. I like to cook my quinoa in the oven. Just put it in a lidded casserole dish and bake about thirty minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. Not chewy or mushy.

The last ingredient is my favorite homemade salad dressing. Add just enough to moisten the salad without drowning it and toss. This makes a perfect salad with many of the recommended food groups. It is perfect at a potluck when you cannot eat the other offerings. I like to use white balsamic vinegar in my dressing as it has lots of flavour but does not turn your salad greens all brown like regular balsamic vinegar. It is so easy to make your own dressing I find myself missing the packaged dressings and making my own all of the time. I hope you enjoy. I find if I add the toasted nuts to a salad, my husband who is not a big salad eater always has a larger serving. I really like that these are all healthy foods and they taste amazing together. I hope you enjoy. 

I like to use organic spices as some of the foreign sources are not concerned with soil safety. This was something the naturopathic doctor recommended. 

I love this hand painted bottle for mixing my dressing. It was a gift from my Dad and Step Mom

6 cups of mixed salad greens
1 cup of fresh cherry tomatoes
1 cup of chopped cucumber, baby if you can get it
½ cup of chopped radish, either red or daikon (peeled)
½ cup of chopped green onion
1 ½ cups of fruit or berries (apples, pears, strawberries, grapes, pomegranate seeds, blueberries choose one that is in season)
1 cup of dried cranberries
1 cup of each two types of toasted nuts or seeds (pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts)
1 recipe of homemade salad dressing
1 cup of cooked quinoa as per recipe

1 cup of cooked quinoa (Add all ingredients and cook as desired)
                ½ cup of uncooked quinoa
                1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth (gluten free)
                ½ cup of chopped onion
                1 clove of fresh garlic crushed

Salad Dressing (Mix all ingredients and toss with salad, only use what is needed to lightly dress the salad)
                ½ cup of white balsamic vinegar
                ¼ cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
                ¼ cup of liquid honey, agave or real maple syrup
                ¼ cup of cold pressed olive oil or other healthy oil
                ½ tsp of ground cumin
                ½ tsp of ground turmeric             
                1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed
                Salt and pepper to taste (freshly ground)

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