Within my cooking and (lack of) weekly meal planning, a part of me is always striving for some kind of balance. Maybe it’s because I’m a little OCD sometimes. Maybe it’s because we’ve always got so much going on, meals become one place in the day where it feels like I can regain some kind of balanced feeling for just a fleeting moment. Maybe it’s simply because my body tells me when it needs more whole grains, less butter, something green, something fruity, or something sweet.
The first time I had quinoa (keen-wa) was in a warm salad of dark steamed greens, fresh greens, black sesame seeds, quinoa and an avocado-based dressing. For my 17-year-old self, it was classified in my brain as interesting but certainly not something I took great note of. I’ve rediscovered quinoa, which is cool as a vegetarian cook, as these plant grains are a complete protein in and of itself, unlike wheat, oats, or rice.
I got the idea for this salad from the cold salad bar at our local co-op. Sometimes we go there for lunch or dinner and often there are so many salad choices I just get a little of everything. One particular favorite these days is a quinoa salad with cashews and cranberries. The following recipe isn’t theirs. In fact, strictly going by my memory, I don’t know if it even tastes similar. I do know that I enjoyed the following salad… and Craig, too. Six-year-old Silas, eh, not so much.
Cranberry Cashew Quinoa Salad
1 cup dried quinoa
1¾ cups water
2½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. Japanese mirin
½ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries
¾ cup raw cashews
1 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, until the water drains clear rather than cloudy. Place the rinsed quinoa and water in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then stir, cover, reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the water has been completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork, then allow the quinoa to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, mirin, lemon zest, orange zest, and basil.
In a large bowl, combine the room-temperature quinoa, cranberries, and cashews. Pour the whisked ingredients into the quinoa, stirring well to coat and combine everything. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.