August 31, 2008

Biryani Inspired Quinoa Salad

I've struggled with cooking quinoa. Time after time it came out of the pot mushy, clumpy, soggy, or chalky. On my recent trip to Top Chef tour we were served a quinoa salad that was delightfully crunchy and I realized what I'd been missing. I could hardly wait to try and replicate it! With some new tips from Nikki of season 4 on how to prepare better quinoa, I felt inspired to make a new dish with this versatile seed to enter in this month's Royal Foodie Joust. This month's Joust ingredients picked by Kittie of Kittens in the Kitchen were: whole grains, ginger and citrus.

The combination of ginger and citrus immediately steered me towards Asian flavors. That brought to mind some comments made on my Gingered Sweet Pickled Cauliflower post. A comment from Salt & Turmeric was that the pickles would be good with biryani. I decided to try making a cold quinoa salad with the flavors and ingredients found in vegetable biryani. Here's my recipe:

Biryani Inspired Quinoa Salad
Makes 6 servings

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup dry lentils
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup diced onion
juice from 1 1/2 limes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
1 cup raisins
1 medium zucchini, julienned
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup sliced almonds

-Cook the quinoa: Add the quinoa to 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer 10-15 minutes. You want to taste the quinoa periodically and stop the cooking when the chalky inside has disappeared. Immediately rinse in cool water, drain and refrigerate.
-Cook the lentils: Add the lentils to a saucepan and cover with water (an inch above the lentils is good). Bring to a boil and then simmer 15-30 minutes until completely cooked through. Drain and allow to cool.
-Add the oil and curry powder to a pan to toast the spices. Carefully fry the spices ~1 minute over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions soften.
-Add the lime juice, zest, agave nectar, salt, cayenne pepper and raisins to a bowl and mix together. Add the quinoa, zucchini, and carrots and toss gently. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice, cayenne or salt as needed.
-Top with almonds and serve. Good with my Gingered Sweet Pickled Cauliflower on the side.

My quinoa was much, much better with Nikki's tips. I think it could have been cooked a tiny smidge longer but it had the desired crunch and wasn't mushy. I'll need a little more practice to get it perfect. I loved the curry spice on the quinoa and the raisins and nuts for sweetness and crunch. I think I'd like to try chickpeas instead of lentils the next time I make this. The size of the lentils was too similar to the size of the quinoa. In all, this was a tasty dish worth making again to perfect my quinoa skills. It'll be interesting to try different vegetable combinations depending on what's available.

Top Chef: The Tour in Detroit
Gingered Sweet Pickled Cauliflower recipe
The Royal Foodie Joust
The Leftover Queen
Kittens in the Kitchen (Awesome blog name!)
Salt & Turmeric (Thanks for the inspiration!)