Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cool Summer Quinoa Salad {Gluten Free}

Summer is here and it's hot this week! I really don't feel like cooking at all in the heat but especially not anything heavy, hot or that requires me to heat up the kitchen by using the oven. This was my solution and the family enjoyed the crunchy texture and bright lemony dressing. You can make the quinoa ahead of time and allow it to chill in the fridge or do like my last minute self and spread the steaming cooked quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. I wish I could pop myself in the freezer on hot days like today. This salad makes a great side dish for some barbequed chicken or works great as a meatless entree too since the quinoa is packed with protein. Enjoy!

Recipe: (serves 6)
2 cups quinoa
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium zucchini, cubed
2 medium carrots, cubed
1/2 english cucumber, cubed (~3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced
handful of toasted sunflower seeds (~1/2 cup) or substitute your favorite nuts

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon (~2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced (greens and white parts)
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned (sliced thinly)

1. Prepare quinoa first, it's similar to cooking couscous or rice if you aren't familiar with it. Add chicken broth and quinoa to a pot over medium high heat until it comes to a gentle boil then immediatly reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Simmer 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed then fluff quinoa with a fork and chill.
You can either make the quinoa in the morning for dinner tonight and let it chill in the fridge or spread the quinoa thinly on a rimmed baking sheet and chill in the freezer quickly for 5-10 minutes. *You don't want to add the cool crunchy ingredients until the quinoa is chilled.
2. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, add olive oil, zucchini and carrots and saute until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
4. Assemble your salad. In a large bowl combine the chilled quinoa, crisp-tender carrots and zucchini, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato and sunflower seeds.  Next drizzle the dressing over and stir to combine. Garnish with scallions and fresh basil.  Try substiting any veggies you like or have on hand.

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