Miriam has requested a quinoa (kin-wa) salad for her birthday dinner. I have tried to make quinoa before without success; it came out gummy and bitter. I know I have been saying this a lot recently, but Cook’s Illustrated had an article about quinoa a few months ago.
The four CI secrets to good quinoa are: 1) Dry toast the grain. 2) Use only slightly more than a one to one ration of water to grain. 3) Gently stir the pot half way through the cooking. And 4) remove the pot from the heat and let the grain steam, covered, for ten minutes.
A few weeks ago I heard a complaint about how the tabouleh sold in America had too much bulgur and not enough parsley. This led me to think about other dishes that might have too much starch in them. Many grain salad recipes call for more starch then vegetables. For this salad I would make the grain a supporting character, not the star.
Miriam was very specific about what other ingredients she wanted in her salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta. The only problem I have with this list is the cheese. When possible, Jan prefers that cheese be left out of most of her dishes. I will serve the feta on the side to be added as the diners choose.
My main dish is lamb kofta with fresh mint and cilantro. I wanted a contrasting flavor for the salad, so I decided to make a dill and lemon dressing. This salad should be a colorful contrast to my main dish.
After Dinner Note: This did not turn out to be the case, the dark quinoa left the salad less than visually appealing. I generally do not cook with red quinoa, but this is what Miriam had requested. While the salad tasted fine, it was overshadowed by the main dish. Once my diners started on the kofta they could not stop and the salad was left begging.
Karl’s Tomato Cucumber Salad with Quinoa
¼ cup fresh dill, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. black pepper
Pinch kosher salt
¾ cup Red quinoa
3 Persian cucumbers, roll cut
3 medium beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ cup red onion, sliced thinly
½ cup Kalamata olive, pitted
¼ cup feta, crumbled (leave out for Vegan)
1. Mix the dill, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Let it meld for 30 minutes.
2. Put the quinoa in a dry skillet and toast it over a medium high heat for about 10 minutes, until it smells like popcorn.
Tip: Quinoa has a bitter compound in its hull. Toasting breaks down this compound and removes the bitterness.
3. Put the quinoa in a small pot and add slightly less than one cup of water.
Tip: Fill a one cup measuring cup and then remove one tablespoon of water.
4. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Gently stir the pot and continue simmering until the liquid is almost gone, 10 more minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit covered for 10 more minutes.
7. Fluff the grain and let it come to room temperature, uncovered.
8. Put the cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and olives into a large bowl.
9. Add the quinoa and dressing and toss to coat.
10. Let the salad meld for 15-20 minutes, toss a final time and serve with the feta on the side.