It’s January and I’m craving salads – big green leafy salads and hearty crunchy grainy salads. The thermometer goes up and down, driving us crazy. One day it’s dripping off the eaves, and we can go out with our coat undone, and the next it’s blizzarding and blowing and we want to hole up inside. And though there’s nothing more comforting than cradling a bowl of steaming soup or hearty savoury stew, I still crave salads. Just a little defiance in the midst of the depths of winter.
We’re bundled up in all our heavy winter gear every time we head outside, vehicles have trouble starting, there’s always a new layer of snow to shovel.
It’s cold-and-flu season and back-to-work season and all-the-fun-of-the-holidays-is-over season. I’m looking forward to the year ahead, but it’s kinda hard to see too far because of all the snow and coldness out there. It’s still pitch dark outside when Andreas gets on the bus in the morning, and we eat supper again in the dark.
The chickens are closed into their coop because it’s too cold outside and the cats huddle under the heat lamp in the garage. Pippa lays and sleeps away most of her days in the straw, running and barking and leaping crazily a few times a day to get the crazies out, then back to her nest in the straw. I feel like that, too, sometimes – like nesting all day, with the occasional burst of wild activity in defiance of the season. I guess eating salads and summery things is the gastronomical equivalent of getting the crazies out – thumbing my nose at Old Man Winter.
Yeah, maybe I will have a big bowl of salad for dinner, and then I’ll go have myself a big bowl of ice cream. Take that, you Winter!
And if I’m looking for a meal kind of salad, this is the one! Enough nutritious quinoa to fortify us for the cold of winter (because the practical me knows I can’t live on frilly green leaves alone) and enough crunchy fresh veggies to satisfy my longing for the lighter fare of sunny summer days.
Kitchen Frau Notes: Red or white quinoa work equally well for this salad, but I like the robustness and colour of the red quinoa better, especially in the winter. I get about 4 cups cooked quinoa out of 1 cup uncooked, though most sources say 1 cup quinoa equals only 2 to 3 cups cooked. So until you know how much your quinoa fluffs up, cook a little more than 1 cup (ratio of 1 cup uncooked quinoa to scant 2 cups water) so you have 4 cups when cooked. You want about equal amounts of quinoa and crunchy vegetables in this salad. Extra cooked quinoa is handy to have in your fridge or freezer for all kinds of meals.
For the vegetables, it really doesn’t matter which ones you use, as long as you have a total of 4 cups, of which ½ cup is onions. It’s all about the crunch, really, so substitute a combination of any crunchy veggies you have on hand – carrots, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, bean sprouts, fennel, sugar snap peas, cabbage, even canned water chestnuts, or baby corn cobs.
The crumbled feta cheese is optional. I’ve often made it without, but it does add a zesty and attractive pop of contrast, either added as a garnish or stirred into the salad.
Tip: If you can’t use up your fresh ginger before it goes bad, store it in a baggie in the freezer. Take it out and grate the amount you need on a microplane grater while still frozen, then pop the rest of the knob back into the freezer. It grates up fine and beautiful. You will just need to press it into the spoon to measure it since it is so fluffy. Tastes just like the fresh stuff.
Quinoa Crunch Salad
for the salad:
- 4 cups (960ml) cooked red or white quinoa
- 1 cup (240ml) diced red pepper
- 1 cup (240ml) diced cucumber
- 1 cup (240ml) diced celery
- ½ cup (120ml) diced radishes
- ½ cup (120ml) sliced green onions (about 4) or diced red onion
for the dressing:
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons/60ml) olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (no need to peel it)
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup (120ml) crumbled feta cheese (optional)
First cook and cool the quinoa. (See my previous post.)
Dice all the vegetables into ½-inch (1cm) cubes. (Radishes a bit smaller.) Place in a large bowl with the quinoa.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients, except the feta cheese, in a measuring cup or small bowl. Pour over the quinoa and vegetables, and toss well to coat.
If using the feta, sprinkle it over the top (or stir it in). This tastes great right away, but even better after about a half hour or so, for the flavours to mingle and mellow.
Makes about 7 cups salad – to serve 6 (or 4, plus enough for wonderful lunches the next day!)
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