If you have not yet embarked on the quinoa craze bandwagon, this recipe may actually push you over the edge! Quinoa, beyond its “super food” virtues, is, quite honestly, very tasty! My family and I enjoy quinoa very much although I doubt it will ever become a staple in our house. Why? Well, without wanting to start a debate about what is politically correct to eat and/or not to eat, I have become more and more sensitive to my food choices and sources. In regards to quinoa, as well as the plethora of tropical produce we consume on a regular basis, it is mainly a question of provenance… I like to show some restraint when using this product because it comes from South America, mainly Peru and Bolivia. It has been a main source of food for the inhabitants of these countries for a very, very long time. As a matter of fact, before we all started to go gaga over this protein-packed grain, it was considered a poor man’s food… In recent years, the demands for quinoa by the Western World have soared exponentially. It is now becoming increasingly difficult for quinoa to remain an affordable staple in its countries of origin. Beyond the affordability and accessibility of the product, one cannot dismiss the impact reclaiming wild land into agricultural land may have on the environment. I find myself pondering these questions often when purchasing foods, especially items that are not native to my homeland. I question the need to add asparagus to my menu in the dead of winter, even when I do succumb to the temptation of biting into a spring tasting green when my world seems to be covered in a monochromatic shade of blah. Having said all that, I do eat quinoa (and bananas, and oranges and pineapple) while trying to be mindful of the distance my food has had to travel to get to me.
In this particular creation, inspired by the wonderful world of Asian flavours, I used tri-colour quinoa with carrots, red peppers, green onions, white Asian turnips, fresh cilantro, cashews, sunflower seed and sesame seeds. The dressing was made with fresh lime juice and zest, Mirin, ginger, Tamari, fish sauce, sesame oil and sunflower oil. Usual proportion for dressing is one part acid to 3 parts oil. Other flavours are always to taste. If you do not have quinoa, use whatever grain you have on hand: it would be equally tasty with rice, barley, faro or any other grain you may fancy. Same with the veggies: use what you have on hand because the dressing is the essence of this salad. Tamari can be replaced by soy sauce, Mirin by any vinegar of your choice and fish sauce by salt. Of course substituting ingredients always changes the flavour profile but that is what fun in the kitchen is!!! Green tender sprouts I love to use are sunflower sprouts: these are my favourite because they taste sweet and nutty (and they grow in my local farmer’s backyard!).
Because this salad is made with hardy vegetables, it will keep a few days in the fridge without turning to mush. Make a big batch and save a few portions for easy garb-and-go lunches.
Ingredients for the salad
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (follow package directions)*
- 1 red pepper, diced (for a huge punch of colour, use a mix of red, yellow and orange)
- 1 ½ cups grated carrots
- 1 cup thinly sliced, grated, cubed or julienne white Asian turnips. These turnips look like big white radishes. They are sweet, crunchy and delicious!
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup each cashews and sunflower seeds, toasted
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Fresh shoots of your choice. I am particularly fond of sunflower shoots but any type will add a vibrant green bite to your salad.
*Tip: when I buy grains, I usually cut out the cooking instructions directly from the package and slip the info sheet with the grain in the storage container. This way, I don’t have to try to remember the proportion of liquid to every single grain I have in my pantry!
Ingredients for the dressing
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
- The zest and juice of 2 fresh limes
- 2 tbsp Mirin or rice vinegar
- 1 heaping tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/8 cup Tamari
- 1 tsp fish sauce (add a bit more if you like the punch and saltiness)
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2/3 cupSunflower oil
- Cook quinoa according to package, drain and let cool by spreading on a cookie sheet.
- While the quinoa is cooking, assemble the dressing: excluding the oils, whisk all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Add sesame and sunflower oil. Mix well. Taste the dressing: if it is lacking salt, add a bit extra fish sauce or tamari.
- Once the quinoa has cooled completely, toss in a large bowl with carrots, red peppers, green onions, turnips, fresh cilantro, cashews, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Start by adding half the dressing. Mix well, taste and add more dressing to your taste.
- Ready to serve: top with a handful of sunflower shoots per serving and sprinkle with a few sesame seeds.