With Boston’s recent spate of July in October I wanted salad for dinner. Simple right? But I am forever getting salad ingredients and not using them, so there are frequently no basics, like lettuce, in my house. Ever. I’m just not that kind of salad girl. I’m much more a fan of a nice pasta salad covered in vinaigrette or German potato salad. But I didn’t want either of those things and the ingredient on everyone’s lips (well blogs) recently has been quinoa.
I get that quinoa is a delicious grain, I even get that it is very helpful, full of nutritional value and makes everything taste wonderfully nutty, but the thing about quinoa is, my mom. My mom went through a phase when I was younger where she was obsessed with those little curly grains – they were in everything, sautees, soups, salads, even granola (which I now realize was fantastically delicious). I grew to hate it. I loathed it on principle the way a sullen teenager will; it’s sort of funny to me now to think about it. I started to hide the quinoa so she couldn’t use it; I was terrible. Then I graduated, and she discovered more grains; sesame seeds and flax among them.
It has taken me a long time but I’ve finally come back around to the idea of quinoa in my cooking. For me it started with this post on quinoa salad from Michelle over at Fun and Fearless in Beantown, and most recently, from this post, by the lovely ladies over at We Are Not Martha. Both of these salads were cold salads cooked and left to cool before eating, but I wanted mine to be warm. I also wanted it to remind me that it was fall and local fall produce was still kicking around and ripe for use; apples, carrots, winter squash. I had a plan and I was excited.
So, on my way home from work on Tuesday, I stopped at the Dewey square farmers market looking for three things: winter squash (Boyfriend actually put the kibosh on the winter squash though; apparently I’ve been making us live on it… which may be a bit true), sweet bell peppers, and onions. So I wandered a bit in the sunshine and wind, grabbed a bunch of scallions and found PURPLE BELL PEPPERS! I got two for my salad, thinking that the color would be a lovely addition to the orange carrots and green scallions. I was set. I grabbed a train to Alewife and excitedly oggled my farmer’s market purchases.
Warm Quinoa Salad
Note: This is all mine. I wasn’t expecting it to be, but it is; so much a kitchen sink recipe, that it was great and delicious. This salad can be made vegeatrien by skipping the chicken and cooking your quinoa in vegetable stock or water (I’m pretty sure this is also very good).
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 chicken thighs, boned and skinned
2 cups carrots, apples, winter squash, beets (hard roast-able veggies)
2 cups green beans, ends trimmed and blanched
2-3 scallions, the green part only, chopped
3 1/2 cups of water
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped into medium-small pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
Cranberry Wensleydale, chopped (optional but delicious)
Dried cranberries (again, optional but delicious)
Chop all of your roasting vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces, put them in a lightly greased baking dish and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water, chicken thighs, and garlic to a simmer. Poach the thighs until they are fully cooked. Reserve the poaching liquid and chop the chicken into chunks; toss it into your main salad bowl. Blanch your green beans and toss them in with the chicken. Check the poaching liquid for the chicken – if it is 3 cups you are good to go. If not, bring the liquid up to three cups. Bring this to a boil and add the quinoa, simmer 15 mins over medium heat, and drain. Add the quinoa to the chicken and green beans. Pull your vegetables out of the oven; are they done? Good. Add those too, and give the whole thing a good toss. Add the dried cranberries (if you’re using them) and the scallions. Let it sit for a minute. Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a lidded jar and give it a good shake (I’ve actually started to use a milk frother for combining vinaigrettes; it’s awesome). Toss the whole salad with the vinaigrette dressing and serve while it’s still warm. Sprinkle the cranberry Wensleydale over the top and serve in big bowls with bread, if you’re into that. The Wensleydale will melt ever so slightly while you eat, and will add just the right texture consistency to make the whole thing sing. I bet goat cheese could do the same thing. Let me know if you try it! Eat the salad while watching a Gossip Girl marathon with girlfriends and being appalled at some of this season’s clothing; seriously, when did the 80’s decide to throw-up on Serena?