Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dropped the Salad Ball Again

Why did I think I could do this 52 week challenge again? It's amazing how quickly a week can fly by without you noticing. Particularly if that week is filled with a lot of driving and apartment hunting. Lucky for my blog, I found an apartment. Next up, however, I must buy a car. How on earth will I manage car shopping, a Sens game, AND 2 salad blogs in one week? Yes, 2 salad blogs, since I must make up for last week's fail. After all, if I make 52 salads in a year, it all evens out in the end, right? That's the theory I'm going with anyway.

The first of this week's salads features quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). This illustrious little seed hails from the Andes in South America. It is in fact a seed, though it is used as you would a grain. It was considered a sacred food by the Incas, which is actually why it is little known today. Despite its supreme nutritional content, the Spanish explorers shunned quinoa because of its association with Incan religious ceremonies (read: non-Christian), and instead brought back the potato as their prize from the new world. Far be it from me to say anything negative about potatoes, but they can't hold a candle to quinoa as far as nutrition goes, and the Spaniards clearly made the wrong choice.

Quinoa is unique in that is one of a noble few plant-based foods that are a "complete" protein source. Complete, for anyone who is unsure, means that it contains all the amino acids that humans need to obtain from diet. This is often cited as the reason why animal products are a superior protein source. It is also why soy, which is also a complete protein, has become so dominant in the world of veg cooking. A cup of cooked quinoa contains 8g protein, 5 g fiber, and 15% of your recommended daily intake of iron.

So what does it taste like and how do you use it? Well, let me put it this way - if rice and couscous had a lovechild, I think it would turn out to be something like quinoa. Use it as you would rice. In fact, you'd be better off eliminating rice altogether and eating only quinoa. It has twice the protein content of brown rice (for the same number of calories), and cooks in 1/4 of the time. In this fresh and healthy salad, I've used quinoa as I might use couscous.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Makes about 5 cups

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked black beans
3 green onions, sliced
3/4 cup red pepper, chopped
3/4 cup cucumber, sliced & quartered
1 plum tomato, slimy middle stuff removed, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
a few dashes of cayenne, to taste (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate a little while, serve cold.

One of the things I have come to dread as a vegan is potlucks. Usually full of things I can't eat. I of course bring something that I can eat, but it is important to bring something that everyone likes, and offers a complete meal in one so I don't feel like I'm sacrificing my nutrition. This would be the perfect pot-luck dish that would feel quite at home at a barbecue as well.

Salad Challenge Countdown
Salads made: 11 Salads left: 41

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