Friday, April 1, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Quinoa, [Dried] Fruit and Nut Salad

Quinoa, o quinoa! Little did I know how difficult it would be to track you down! I went to four different groceries and did everything but put on a deerstalker hat and carry a magnifying glass à la Sherlock Holmes, trying to track you down, you grain-that-was-a-staple-of-the-ancient-Incas, pronounced KEEN-wah, mild and almost bland in your flavor!

After I'd driven all over town, I discovered that I should have sought you out in a health food store. Bugger.

ANYHOO, I went back to the first grocery I'd visited on my quest and bought a humble box of couscous. I am familiar with couscous, using it in place of rice (which takes much longer to cook) in several dishes, and it was there patiently waiting for me. So, KEEN-WAH, I made a very nice salad, no thanks to you, you big snob lurking there on the health food store's shelves.

By the time all that was over, I'd run out of energy to cook, so it was a good thing this nice little salad was easy to prepare. Dorie advised using a number of different dried fruits and nuts to add taste, color and texture, so I used dark raisins, diced apricots and dried cranberries for the fruit and slivered almonds, chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds for the nuts. There was a light dressing made from ginger, olive oil and lemon juice to pour on after the couscous was stirred together with the fruit and the nuts and then all that was left to do was plunk it on the kitchen counter to give the flavors a chance to blend.

That time spent on the counter was the longest part of the recipe; the second longest was the part where the couscous had to cool to room temperature. So if you're looking for a salad that can be made with minimal effort on your part, but which yields a delicious flavor and an appealing appearance, this is your dish.

This salad was a recipe that I enjoyed very much and I'd definitely make it again. For one thing, it had a lot of eye-appeal, the EXACT AND COMPLETE OPPOSITE of that Tuna Noodle Casserole I posted below, which looks to be the color and texture of Elmer's School Paste. If you'd like to see the casserole but you're not on my main page, go down to the index and click on the FISH ON FRIDAYS link. But you may not want to

I made our individual salads in tiny bowls that I lined with a pretty bed of spring mix salad greens, placing about a half cup of the salad on top It looked really nice, but it tasted even better. The texture is very interesting, being both chewy and crunchy at the same time, but not in a way that interfered with one's ability to chew and swallow without choking, as some foods do, my primary example being Ants on a Log, that Food of Death posing as a delightful childhood snack-fave. The couscous had a very slight grainy texture that added some interest as well, but the graininess is so small that it's not as if you were working around it and thinking, "Oh my....CRUNCH and CHEW and GRAIN...FIND ME A NAPKIN!"

And then there was the taste, to which the couscous (and, I presume, the quinoa) didn't add a whole lot. It was there, I suppose, to add body. You can detect a slight butteriness from the couscous, but mostly what you're tasting is the dried fruit and the nuts, bathed in that delicious little dressing bath. I'm not sure what it is about lemon juice, ginger and olive oil that made such a tasty component to the salad; all I can say is that it was brisk without being sour, a very spring-and-summer sort of dressing.

Tell you what - this salad reminded me a lot of the Birdseed Salad that Carol and I enjoy so much at Stream Cliff Farm. It's a broccoli-onion-raisin-sunflower seed salad that's also known as Amish Broccoli Salad, depending on whether you're at Stream Cliff Farm or not. Although the ingredients are different (except for the raisins and the sunflower seeds), there's still that same element of texture and freshness. Birdseed/Amish Broccoli Salad is pretty common here in the midwest, so if you live here, you may well have eaten it. And if you've eaten it and liked it, then you'll probably like Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad as well. Alors, give it a try.


Cher said...

Aren't those ingredient scavenger hunts just something else? Glad your bird food salad worked for you :-)

Kayte said...

This looks beautiful and delicious! I need to get to this as I have been in tart mode over here trying to finish the savory tart section in Modern Baker so I can move on to the sweet tart section which is really why I bought the book in the first place for that group...yes indeed. I love that broccoli salad, might need to make that for Mark's lunch this week now that you mentioned it! Great post!