Thanksgiving Quinoa Salad

Thanksgiving celebrates the bounty of the harvest.  Giving thanks is central to Judaism and offering thanks for agricultural success (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister) is an important Jewish theme.  Traditionally, foods like cranberry, almonds and corn are included in the American Thanksgiving celebration.  This salad celebrates the breadth of so many delicious salad ingredients, some old, some new and some recreated.  The addition of pumpkin pie spice to the toasting of the seeds and nuts adds a familiar Thanksgiving taste and aroma to this salad.

The textures and colors of this salad will delight your palate.  The quinoa and sesame seeds have a firm caviar-like texture that complement the smooth taste and texture of the corn and edamame.  This salad can be made with any color quinoa or quinoa combination, but I found the red quinoa to be a stunning background canvas for the white sesame seeds and almonds, yellow corn, red dried cranberries and green edamame and scallions.  I added some sauteed onions to add some extra depth of flavor.  The palate and taste sensation of this salad is a real wow!

Quinoa is one of those ancient trendy grains that has come a long way.  From the beginning, I admired the nutritional benefits of quinoa and the pop-in-your-mouth texture of quinoa. When I first started using quinoa almost ten years ago,  though, I struggled to find a few favorite brands that didn’t impart a soapy aftertaste. Today, I have found that most brands of quinoa no longer have that bitter soapiness.  It has become readily available in most supermarkets and even in Costco.  It has been touted as one of those wonder grains and I agree.

Quinoa is high in protein and fiber and is gluten-free; it is a unique grain in that it contains all nine essential amino acids. It boasts high levels of  B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.

There are three basic varieties of quinoa: white, red and black.  While the taste of these three types of quinoa are quite similar, they have nuanced differences in texture and cooking times. White quinoa is the mildest and most common of the quinoa varieties.  It cooks the fastest of the three.  Red quinoa has a crunchier texture and takes a few minutes longer to prepare. Black quinoa has the firmest texture and takes a few minutes more than the red.

I prepare a batch of quinoa in a rice cooker  using 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  The rice cooker takes about 15-30 minutes to cook the quinoa, with the variation depending on the variety and age of the quinoa.  Once the rice cooker completes its cooking,  I just fluff the quinoa with a fork and it is ready to serve as is or to add to salads.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of cooked quinoa

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 onion diced small, sauteed or fresh (optional)
1/2 cup craisins
1 can corn, drained well
1 package frozen shelled edamame

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds or crushed pecans
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice(optional)

DRESSING

2 Tablespoons Oil  (optional)
Splash (about 4 tablespoons) cider vinegar
Drizzle (2 tablespoons) Agave syrup or honey (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
pinch black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Prepare quinoa in rice cooker or according to package directions:  I  use 1 cup of quinoa to two cups of water or broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Saute one large onion.

Carefully toast sunflower seeds and almonds or crushed pecans with pumpkin spice in a saute pan or in the oven.  Be careful to watch them carefully so that they do not burn.  The seeds and nuts may be added without toasting, as well.

almonds-and-seeds

Cook edamame according to package directions.  Drain edamame and corn well before adding to salad. Add all the rest of the salad ingredients and toss it all together.

Dressing may be made in advance and stored until ready to use or sprinkled directly on salad.

TIPS

Before cooking a full meal or preparing multiple Shabbos or Yom Tov (Jewish holiday) meals , I saute several onions at once.   I use what I need for each dish, saving the rest for the next dishes.  Any onions that have been left over are  frozen in snack-sized ziploc bags or ice cube trays.

When I prepare quinoa, I usually prepare a full 3 cups in my rice cooker.  I reserve some of it for a salad and serve the rest warm with sauteed onions and garlic.

VARIATIONS

You may substitute 2 cups of brown rice, farro, wheat berries or pearl barley for the quinoa.  Salt and cook in rice cooker or according to package directions.

Replace shelled edamame with frozen lima beans or peas.  Cook according to package directions

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