Fall Quinoa Salad

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I like to have a few recipes on hand so that, on occasion, I can feel like Gwyneth Paltrow. Did you just cock your head and give the screen a quizzical look? Let me explain.

Ms. Paltrow is reported to follow a fairly strict diet, based around locally sourced, seasonal and organic food. She stays away from processed foods, red meat, sugar and dairy for the most part. She also does things like soak raw almonds in water before she eats them to allow for better digestion. If you’d like a first-hand (and highly entertaining) account of what it’s like to eat like the Goop goddess, please read Rebecca Harrington’s The Cut article. While I’m not signing up for veganism just yet, eating a full bowl of colorful veggie and seed goodness, free of impurities (and sadly cheese, meat, bread and all the other things that generally excite me) makes me feel like I’m following in her amazingly youthful footsteps. And like I deserve a pat on the back for all my good deeds.

I stumbled upon this salad at a work lunch at Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica. It was memorable because of its cornucopia of fall flavors in a crunchy, delicious pile of quinoa. Apparently, it was so memorable, the LA Times even posted an adapted version for a curious reader. And boy am I glad they did. The highlights for me are the savory roasted butternut squash, crisp green beans, chunks of green apple and almonds. And the rosemary-infused quinoa and orange blossom dressing is what really sets it apart from just another quinoa salad.

While the components do require a few cooking methods (roasting, sauteing, blanching, toasting and boiling), the end result is worth the wait. You could use just regular quinoa in a pinch, but the red varietal has a warmth to it that really complements the other ingredients. My advice: Make a big batch of this prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, and keep in on hand for snacking. I like to think Gwyneth would approve.

Fig’s Warm Quinoa Salad

Total time: About 1 hour

Serves 4

Orange blossom vinaigrette

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup orange blossom honey

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to a simmer. Reduce the orange juice by one-third to yield two-thirds cup, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and place the reduced orange juice in a medium bowl. Set aside until cool.

To the reduced orange juice, whisk in the honey and then the vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. This makes about 2 cups dressing, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the dressing should keep for about 5 days, refrigerated.

Note: Because this recipe makes more than enough dressing, start with about half the dressing and keep adding it to suit your taste.

Salad

1/4 pound peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

Canola oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 pound (about 1 cup) haricots vert, ends trimmed (While these thinner green beans are preferred, I used regular ones in their absence, which was just fine.)

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 pound Swiss chard, ribs removed and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

Orange blossom vinaigrette

3 cups vegetable broth

1 cup red quinoa

1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

2 tablespoons Marcona almonds

Toasted sliced almonds, garnish

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the squash cubes with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then set the warm squash in a medium bowl.

While the squash is roasting, blanch the beans. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the haricots vert and blanch quickly to bring out the color, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain the vegetables, then quickly shock in a bowl of ice water. Remove from the ice bath and set aside.

In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. Add the beans, cubed apple and Swiss chard together with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Saute, tossing frequently, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, adding one-fourth cup vinaigrette toward the end to deglaze the pan. Add beans, apple and chard to the squash in the bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and rosemary sprig and gently simmer, covered, just until the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain, discarding the rosemary.

Toss the warm quinoa and Marcona almonds in the bowl with the squash. Dress with additional vinaigrette as desired and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mound the warm salad on 4 plates, drizzling over additional vinaigrette if desired. Garnish with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.squashfoods_201foods_187foods_207foods_215

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