Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Quinoa Salad for Melissa

Last week I hosted a bridal shower for my daughter Melissa.  I made the decision to have the party at my home for a few reasons.  If Melissa had her way, she would be getting married in our backyard...The yard where she napped in the shade of the maple tree as a wee little baby...The yard where she spent countless hours on her beloved swing trying to touch the sky with her toes and swinging upside down from the trapeze...The yard where she and the neighborhood kids played red light green light, caught fireflies and splashed in the pool...The yard where she had her Sweet 16 and discovered that the four person hot tub could really hold ten.  But a wedding?  I can't make that happen, but a shower on the other hand, I could handle.

I also knew that Melissa would appreciate a mostly vegetarian menu that I could create, keeping her likes and dislikes in mind.  I was right.  I'm not going to lie, it was a lot of work and thank God for my good friend Barbara whose help was invaluable.  I owe her big-time.  This was truly a labor of love and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I wish I had taken photos of the process, but I knew that playing photographer would slow me down.  Everything was homemade with the exception of the rolls, which were purchased at a local bakery and the mini cupcakes, courtesy of Mike's mom Diane.  In the end, it was all worth it.  It turned out to be a beautiful day and Melissa has yet another backyard memory.

The Menu
Arnold Palmers
Pom Spritzers
San Pellegrino

Crudite Cups with Buttermilk Herb Dressing
White Bean Hummus on Endive and Cucumber Coins
Mini Martini Shrimp Cocktail
Open Faced Cucumber Sandwiches with Garlic Herb Cheese Spread

Asparagus, Onion and Gruyere Quiche
Mushroom, Asparagus and Gruyere Quiche
California Chicken Salad with Grapes and Sliced Almonds
Mini Rolls
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Baby Field Greens with Artichokes and Red Roasted Peppers, with Dijon Vinaigrette 
Home Grown Millionaire Tomato Salad with Basil Chiffonade 

 Watermelon Heart Fruit Skewers
Assorted Mini Cupcakes
Sweet Strawberry Scones with Tart Strawberry Jam
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Hearts
Coffee and Tea

I managed to take a few photos, but not as many as I would have liked.  I guess I was a bit preoccupied.

Since Melissa is a vegetarian, she was able to eat everything except the chicken salad and shrimp cocktail which she greatly appreciated.  Oh, and I also made her a mushroomless quiche, acknowledging her mushroom aversion.  It was her day and I wanted her to be able to eat, not forced into the usual singular vegetarian option had the shower been held at a local restaurant.   Eggs and dairy were used in several dishes (which she eats) but I also wanted to make a protein rich dish that might appeal to any vegan friends.  I opted to make a quinoa salad.

If you're not familiar with quinoa, pronounced keen-wha, it's time to try something new.  It's SUPER healthy and you can learn a little about it here.  I'm pretty sure that we had several quinoa converts that day.  This salad is best served at room temperature.  Make it a day ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend.  If you have a rice cooker, you may opt to cook the quinoa in the rice cooker.  I don't have one, but I've read it makes perfect quinoa.  If that is the case, forget about toasting the quinoa and follow the recipe from the point where your quinoa is cooked.  REMEMBER:  Always rinse the raw quinoa thoroughly no matter how you cook it.  It must be rinsed several times to remove the bitterness.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July 1994
Serves 6 as a Main Dish or 10-12 as a side
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn - 2 large ears or blanched frozen corn like Trader Joe's
  • 1 cup of diced peppers, any combo of red, orange, yellow, green - color is good!
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced- up it to 2 if you like spice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice - about 4 limes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • additional salt and pepper to taste
  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly, by soaking in a bowl of cold water- change water several times until water looks clear, drain in a sieve.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil.  Add the quinoa and toast until light golden in color, stir often to prevent burning.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth according to package directions.  There are many kinds of quinoa, but generally you use a 2:1 ratio, liquid to quinoa.  It generally cooks up in 15 minutes.  
  4. While quinoa is cooking, mix the beans with the vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  
  5. Add the corn, diced peppers, jalapeno and toss. 
  6. When quinoa is cooked, remove it from the heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool.  Fluff with fork.
  7. In another small bowl, make the dressing- whisk the lime juice, cumin, remaining salt (1/2 teaspoon), and pepper with the olive oil.  Set aside.
  8. Toss the beans, corn, and pepper mix with the cooled quinoa.  
  9. Add the cilantro and the dressing.  Toss well, cover and refrigerate.
  10. Allow flavors to blend for several hours or overnight.  Correct the seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.  

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