August 11, 2013

Quinoa salad with creamy lemon-basil dressing


August 6 was National Night Out, and our block had its annual pot luck dinner to mark the event. It's really called the National Night Out Against Crime, although I didn't realize it until just now when I looked it up. It makes a lot of sense to have block parties to help deter crime, because the better neighbors get to know one another, the more likely they are to watch out for each other. I got to meet both new and old neighbors and had a great time at our party. I thought it was a huge success, but I couldn't help but wonder what was going on at the block behind ours — lots of loud party noises coming from that block long into the night. Loud and raucous laughing and shrieking. Am I living on the wrong block?

I always have a hard time trying to think of something to make for a potluck, but my husband suggested quinoa salad, and considering the ingredients we had on hand, it seemed like a perfect idea. I cooked the quinoa with vegetable stock to give it an extra flavor boost, and combined it with cucumber, grape tomatoes, green onions, kalamata olives, toasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and salad mix that was half baby spinach and half baby spring mix. When I'm making quinoa I wash it and drain it well, then add it to boiling water, turn the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook it for 10 minutes. Then I turn off the heat and let the quinoa steam for another 10 minutes or so without removing the lid. Fluff the grain with a fork and either use it hot or let it cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate it to use the next day. For the potluck salad, I used one cup of quinoa and two cups of stock.

Leftover dressing. The jar holds a total of 24 ounces.

The real point of writing the post isn't to describe the salad, it's to describe the salad dressing. The dressing was, in my humble opinion, exquisite — so creamy and luxe, with the perfect balance of herbs and citrus. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but since I wasn't using a recipe, and was just adding things as I thought of them, it came together quickly— and the taste was fantastic. I'm so glad I wrote the ingredients down so I can make it again. The recipe makes a lot — enough for one really big salad and a few smaller ones. I've been drizzling it on regular green salads, and it's scrumptious. I chose the herbs I used to go with the basil because they're growing in my garden.**

Creamy lemon-basil dressing
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 soft dates, split and pitted
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • two or three sprigs of fresh rosemary (remove leaves from woody stems.)
  • handful fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped* 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Chop the garlic and let it sit on the cutting board.*
  2. With a knife or vegetable peeler, peel the yellow skin off the lemon half but leave the white part on. Remove the seeds, and cut the lemon into pieces.
  3. Add the lemon and water to a high speed blender and purée.
  4. Add the pine nuts, and dates and blend smooth.
  5. Add the basil, rosemary, parsley, yeast flakes, garlic and salt, and blend until smooth. 
  6. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil. The dressing should become thick and creamy. 
Someone will probably ask me if you have to add the oil. The oil thickens the dressing and adds to the flavor, but of course you don't have to add oil. You could try using less water or more pine nuts, or even adding some chia to the blender. I'm sure if you follow an oil-free diet, you'll know what to do. I eat a diet that's pretty low in added oils, but I do use some.

I got the idea for adding the lemon (instead of just the juice) from a smoothie book I recently reviewed. You can read the review and find a link to a recipe, here.

* Last weekend my friend Brenda told me she had read that garlic needs to be chopped and allowed to sit in the air for 10 minutes to make all of its healthful benefits available to our bodies. I googled it and found quite a few articles supporting this information. I chose one article to link to, but feel free to do further research or ignore the whole issue. I don't know if it's true or not, but I think it's true, and am going to do this from now on. You can read more about unlocking garlic's amazing benefits here.
 
The recipe for creamy basil dressing is being shared on Wellness Weekend.

** Here's a hint for next year, unless you live somewhere with an endless summer and can plant things whenever you want. If you have a sunny, or mostly sunny spot outdoors you can grow herbs in large pots. I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe's for $2.99, and it's acting like growing in a pot is the best thing in the world. Last year I tried growing basil in the ground, and it completely failed, but this year in a pot next to my house, it's growing like a weed. I used to grow ridiculous amounts of basil in the ground in my Wisconsin garden, but here in Seattle, where the summer isn't quite warm enough, my herbs in pots are doing better than my herbs in the ground.

Found on the cutting board when I cleaned up!

18 comments:

  1. I remember the days of block parties. That's great that they're bringing them back by you! The dressing sounds great and I love the lemon peel heart. :)

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    1. We had an annual block party ice cream social in Madison, so it's not just here. I think the parties are a great idea. The heart was pure serendipity — I had no idea I'd cut the peel like that.

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  2. Happy Belated National Night Out! That sounds like an awesome event to celebrate with your neighbors and to fight against crime! I love your husband's idea - a quinoa salad. Quinoa is one of my favorite staples to use. I used it with red chimichurri sauce from Grills Gone Vegan cookbook (on my blog), harissa (the traditional spicy one), and herb-tahini dressing. All the ingredients you've applied to the quinoa salad sound wonderful including the toasted chickpeas and pumpkin seeds. Well done, Andrea! I would love to try your creamy lemon-basil dressing...sounds so tasty! And great tip on the chopped garlic ;) I think I read somewehre else, that a lemon has to be sliced in half and let it sit to breathe. Yay, I love Trader Joe's and we've also been growing a variety of herbs in big pots too! I love the way you cut the lemon into a heart, that's way too cute!

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    1. I love quinoa, too. I love the taste, the versatility and the fast cooking time! I love it with a tahini-umeboshi sauce, too.

      I didn't know about letting a lemon breathe, but I'll look into it. And, for some reason — maybe the quirky PNW weather — my herbs seem to prefer pots. So does my cherry tomato!

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  3. Agreed about the TJ basil plant! mine always did really well.
    The dressing sounds delicious. I don't make quinoa much but this sounds great. Hopefully the neighbors all liked it, and you were able to eat some other stuff too.

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    Replies
    1. Those TJ basil plants are huge and healthy. I'm always going to get mine there. The neighbors commented positively on the salad, and there was even another quinoa salad there, but mostly it was stuff I couldn't eat. Except for the fruit.

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  4. I have to move to your neighborhood, Andrea! That salad sounds fabulous. I have never lived in a neighborhood where National Night Out has been celebrated, but I know that there are big parties around in various neighborhoods nearby. Maybe I should move :-)

    Both onions and garlic should be chopped and then left to sit for a bit before cooking/eating. It helps release the organosulfur compounds and lets the chemical reaction that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates happen. Nutrition at work!

    Courtney

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Courtney, there's just one thing to do. You have to organize the night out for your block! It might be easier than moving. :)

      Thanks for the information about onions and garlic. I'll try to remember to do this from now on.

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  5. I've been thinking of having an aerial herb garden next year, courtesy of my Topsy Turvy collection (as seen on tv!). This dressing is a good excuse to make a note to myself to definitely begin this early spring. I love a veggie-filled quinoa salad! Also, great hearty peel.

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    Replies
    1. Don't wait until next year to make the dressing — just go buy some herbs at the farmers market! And don't plant basil before the spring weather warms up or it will curl up and die. Basil is even fussier than I am about wanting warm summer weather.

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  6. The cucumber, grape tomatoes will increase taste and richness. I generally conscious about low added oils to protect health. I use to cook breakfast recipes less oily and fatty for family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to use as little oil as possible, but I haven't eliminated it from my diet.

      Delete
  7. Yummy looking salad, I was just thinking I don't eat nearly enough quinoa. I'll have to try the dressing - when you say the lemon instead of the just the juice, do you mean the whole thing? Peel, pulp and all?

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    Replies
    1. With a knife or vegetable peeler, peel the yellow skin off the lemon half but leave the white part on. Remove the seeds, and cut the lemon into pieces to make blending easier. I do this in a high speed blender and don't know if a regular blender will be able to puree the lemon as well. I think so, but since I haven't tried it, can't say for sure.

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  8. I heart your lemon heart. I am always looking for new salad dressings and your recipe looks and sounds like everything I love in a dressing.

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    Replies
    1. I was surprised to find the heart on the cutting board! The dressing surprised me, too, with its deliciousness. :)

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  9. We are always looking for a new dressing for our salads, and this one looks like one to try. Plus, we usually have most of the ingredients in the house. (PS. Love the lemon love!)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope if you try it, you enjoy it as much as we did.

      Delete

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