Quinoa is the oldest ancient grain, a perfect protein and a misunderstood whole grain. Pronounced Keen-Wah, quinoa comes in either red or golden/brown and it is a wonderful substitute for brown rice, Bulgar wheat or even couscous in salads, side dishes or even as a breakfast porridge. Truly! I've seen quinoa on the menu at Green Eggs Cafe and have it on good authority that it's scrumptious as a hot cereal - along the lines of my version of breakfast couscous.
Trader Joe's was promoting boxes of Red Quinoa about a month ago and like with most successful marketing or store campaigns, the end cap displays were intriguing enough to entice me to buy a box. The box sat in my cupboard for awhile and then I was inspired to make this salad, based on two other salads I've had, a bulgar wheat salad and a chickpea and cranberry salad. I took the best of each and combined them into this Quinoa, Chickpea and Dried Cranberry Medley. Note, I cooked the quinoa in flavorful water, not knowing for sure what I would do with it once it was cooked. I tossed in a vegetable bullion cube and dried bell pepper flakes. Half a packaged of dried salad dressing mix would do the trick too (though it might be a tad salty). The quinoa was tasty just as I cooked it but since it was already flavorful, it was magical in this salad.
Red Quinoa, Chickpeas and Dried Cranberry Salad Ingredients:
- 1 Cup Dried/Uncooked Red Quinoa - rinsed thoroughly and cooked in 2 1/5 cups cold water
- 1 Vegetable Bullion Cube or 1/2 dried salad dressing packet (such as Good Seasons)
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Bell Pepper Flakes
- 2 Medium Carrots - peeled, rinsed and cut into small dice
- 2 celery stalks - cleaned and cut into small dice
- 1 Small Zucchini - cleaned and cut into small dice
- 1 14-16 ounce can chick peas - drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds - Toasted
Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients: (or use 1 cup of a light bottled vinaigrette of choice, such as light balsamic, Italian, or lemon)
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- Juice of 1 Lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Mustard Powder
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer; use a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot with a tight fitting lid and then cook the quinoa in 2 & 1/2 cups of water, adding in the bullion cube and dried bell pepper flakes, or salad dressing packet. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot, simmering until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa germ has sprouted - about 40 minutes. When the quinoa is fully cooked and is tender to the tooth, rinse it under cold water in a fine mess strainer and set aside in a mixing bowl.
- While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the vegetables, dicing the carrots, celery and zucchini into small 1/4 inch pieces. Add the diced vegetables to the mixing bowl along with the chick peas (garbanzo or ceci beans), the dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- If using home-made dressing, make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice and zest along with the tablespoons of white wine and cider vinegars. Add in the dried mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper and whisk to combine. Continually whisk and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in more salt, pepper, mustard, etc until the dressing is tart but not too tart and not overly oily.
- Once the quinoa is cooked and cooled, add it to the prepared vegetables. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and fold it in to thoroughly combine. Allow the flavors to blend about 30 minutes before serving for best taste. Makes 3 to 4 cups; serves 8. Salad is best served cold and will keep for up to 4 days in a tightly covered container.