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Organic quinoa & veggie salad

I got to try quinoa (pronounced “kee-NO-wah” or “KEEN-wah”) through my friend SM and have been quite obsessed about it ever since. I have long known about it but just did not get a chance to taste it until a year + ago at an organic cafe in Taman Tun.

Essentially a seed, quinoa is more popularly known as a gluten free grain that is bursting rich in essential nutrients such as lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair; manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and a high iron content. Dated back to ancient Peruvian times, quinoa has a mild nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture when cooked. Read more about the goodness and history of quinoa here and here.

You can eat quinoa on its own like rice, or cook it with other gluten free grains like millet, buckwheat, brown rice and amaranth (same botanical family as quinoa) to eat with cooked dishes, or simply make a salad combined with vegetables or other ingredients.

Quinoa is a staple food for me, it is an ingredient that can be found permanently in my kitchen cupboard, and comes in really handy if I need something filling and nutritious. As I have problems digesting gluten-filled grains, this is my best option besides brown rice.

The simplest, fastest and my favorite way to eat quinoa, is to make a quick and simple veggie salad, tweaking the popular Middle Eastern salad, Tabbouleh, made using a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs (tomato, cucumber, spring onion, mint leaves and parsley), bulgur wheat, and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Quinoa is used in place of bulgur as a gluten free option.

You’ll get a refreshing and nutritious salad bursting with a combination of flavours, yet light and filling at the same time. You can basically add anything to this salad. I love to toss in some torn lettuce leaves, avocado cubes, roasted saltless nuts (my favourites are almond and cashew) and torn nori sheets. That would make a hearty breakfast, or a great accompaniment to pasta or mains.

I get my supply of organic quinoa from the healthfood stores. For those staying in KL and surrounding areas, you can easily get them from Country Farm Organics or Village Grocer in Bangsar Village. Country Farm Organics is my preferred store and brand as the grains are really clean and require less rinsing before cooking. Organic quinoa isn’t cheap, but I have not seen any non-organic ones so far, not in KL at least. Pricing ranges from RM14 – 19 per pack (500g), normally comes in either plain white quinoa, or mixed 3 colours.

Recipe
Serving size: 2
Preparation/cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (organic ingredients used whenever available):
3 tbsp organic quinoa (plain or mixed colours), rinsed with running water in a strainer
1 cup water
pinch of salt

1/2 small cucumber, seeded and diced
5 – 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 – 5 pcs Romaine, iceberg, butterhead or other types of lettuce, torn into smaller pieces
1 small ripe avocado, cubed
1/4 red or green capsicum, diced (optional)
1 stalk spring onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 – 3 stalks fresh mint (leaves only), chopped
1 large piece of unflavoured nori sheet (the ones you use to make sushi)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

Steps:

1. Toss quinoa lightly in a small pot (you need one with a lid) on low heat until you get a nutty aroma. (This step is optional, you can skip this and go straight to step 2)
2. Add water and salt and cook on medium heat for about 5 – 10 minutes, then reduce to low heat and continue to cook about 10 – 15 minutes until you see the grains start to get translucent and fluffy and the quinoa germ separates from the kernel (they look like little white rings). [While doing this, prepare the vegetables and fresh herbs]
3. Remove pot from the heat, fluff the quinoa grains lightly with a fork, cover with the lid of the pot and leave aside for another 10 – 15 minutes. This is to ensure the quinoa grains are properly cooked.
4. Combine all vegetables and herbs with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add in quinoa, roasted nuts and toss well. Top with torn nori sheets.

Below are some of the photos that I took a couple of weeks back, after the arrival of my (new) antique cutting board from France. The cutting board is so well used, rustic, and full of characters that I just had to find reasons to photograph it! The board is seen here with some of the ingredients used to make this simple and nutritious salad.

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