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Quinoa Salad with Pistachios, Currants and Dried Apricots Kissed with Orange, Rice Vinegar and Sesame Oil

Posted By Lynne On August 17, 2011 @ 10:30 pm In Breakfast and Brunch, Salads | 7 Comments

This week we had a potluck at my work and when it was announced, I knew I wanted to make this quinoa salad. So I made my shopping list and headed off to my local Ralph’s Market. I looked everywhere for the quinoa and couldn’t find it, so I buttonholed the manager and asked him where it was. He replied, “What’s quinoa?” Can you imagine a grocery store manager not knowing what this food item is? I mean, maybe they don’t carry it, but he should know what it is. Just sayin’.

So I traipsed off to Whole Foods where I knew they had it and bought two 16 oz. bags for $3.50. They had about five different kinds and ten different brands. Quinoa is mainstream, guys. Get with it.

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America, where it was successfully domesticated 3000 to 4000 years ago. It is now primarily grown in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. The Incas held the crop to be sacred and called it the “mother of all grains.” The Spanish colonists forbid the Incas to grow quinoa and forced them to grow wheat instead.

Quinoa is not a member of the grass family; therefore, it is not a true cereal or grain. It is closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source, which is unusual among plant foods.

What I like about it, besides its being good for you, is its texture, which is a cross between crunchy and al dente pasta. I ate my leftovers from the potluck the next day and the quinoa had the same bite as it did originally. No sogginess here, people. I love this stuff.

P.S. Every once in a while someone else actually makes one of my recipes and it makes me feel so honored and happy. A big thank you to each and every one of you. If you would like to see an absolutely spectacular photo of my Quinoa Salad, hop on over to Carolines Blog post of August 19th. Bravo, Caroline!

Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Dried Apricots

Note: I used salted pistachios in the shell when I made this dish. To compensate, I added very little salt when I adjusted the seasoning at the end. If you use unsalted pistachios, season accordingly.

Serves 4

2 cups water
2 cups quinoa, rinsed

1 ½ cups dried apricots, ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup currents, soaked 10 minutes, drained, dried

2 tablespoons mint, minced
¼ cup cilantro, minced

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (I used Minute Maid)
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, decrease heat to low, and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

2. Fluff grains with a fork and transfer to a medium bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3. Add the apricots, almonds, pistachios, raisins, currents, mint and cilantro to the quinoa. Stir to combine.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, cinnamon, rice vinegar, orange juice concentrate and sesame oil.

5. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

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