Something Different
Week of: December 3, 2012
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Quinoa Makes a Festive Salad

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

When composing a dish for the holidays, I think about visual appeal even more than usual. Since we eat with our eyes, I focus on foods that add seasonal color to the table along with festive flavors and good nutrition. Here is how I created a salad to serve as a meatless main dish or an appealing accompaniment during the Christmas season.

Quinoa’s flavor and texture make it versatile, and its fiber, protein and many vitamins and minerals make it a good nutritional choice. And with no gluten, quinoa works for those who must avoid that ingredient. So I chose quinoa for the salad’s base.

Intense color usually signals an abundance of phytochemicals in foods, including carotenoids, anthocyanins and other antioxidants. To pair the quinoa with green and red vegetables and fruit, I started with parsley, mint and cilantro, the trio often used in tabbouleh, plus scallions to add zing.

Next I added a red-skinned apple. Its sweetness tastes good against an underlying bitterness in the green herbs; the crunch is welcome, too. Finally, for even more seasonal color I tossed in pomegranate seeds. This jewel-like fruit is easy to use if you can find the fresh seeds in a container in the produce section.

We are now in citrus season, so many choices beyond limes and lemons are available for a dressing that’s a bit special. Adding just enough olive oil to blood orange juice gives the dressing body and intensifies its sun-warmed flavor.

This salad can be served immediately or sit for a day, so have it ready to serve for dinner or lunch, take a container along to sustain you during holiday shopping, or pack it up when friends ask you to bring a dish for a holiday gathering.

Pasta Shells with Garlicky Kale

Holiday Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Fresh Herbs

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 medium Fuji apple, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions, green and white parts
  • 1/4 cup blood orange juice, or orange juice plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Rinse quinoa in strainer, drain well, and place moist grain in heavy, medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spatula until grains stick to bottom of pot and then start to move freely and smell toasty, about 5 minutes. When grains of quinoa start to pop, move pot off heat and pour in 1¾ cups water, standing back as it will splatter. Immediately return pot to heat and reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is almost tender. Off heat, let grain sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Using fork, fluff quinoa, and transfer it to mixing bowl. There will be about 2 1/4 cups cooked quinoa.

Let quinoa sit until it is room temperature. Add apple, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, mint, parsley, and scallions to grain and, using a fork, mix to combine them.

In small bowl, whisk orange juice, or two citrus juices, with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until it dissolves. Add 4-5 grinds pepper, then whisk in oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss with fork to distribute it evenly. Serve within 2 hours. The quinoa and dressing parts of this salad can be made up to 8 hours ahead, then covered and refrigerated separately and combined shortly before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 179 calories, 4 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 32 g carbohydrate,
5 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 366 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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