Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Quinoa Salad with Seared Zucchini & Chickpeas

Zucchini squash has been on the menu a *lot* in my kitchen lately.  Along with its multi-colored and often exuberantly shaped zephyr, pattypan, scallop, carnival, and gooseneck heirloom squash cousins, it has been a joy to see the strength of their numbers at the farmers' market and local grocers.  With such a diversity of not only shape, but flavor and texture, I am doing my best to take advantage of the season and try them all.  So, to perhaps help you do the same, I present a simple, yet strikingly flavorful, dish that will hit the spot for any occasion.

Quinoa Salad with Seared Zucchini & Chickpeas
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  at least 1 hour (for chilling)
Cooking Time:  25-30 minutes
Yield:  about 4 servings

1 c quinoa, uncooked
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 dashes cinnamon
1 1/2 c filtered water

1 zucchini squash, sliced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1 c cooked chickpeas
1 scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons dried currants (or raisins)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle or smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

What you'll need:  medium saucepan with lid, sauté pan, cooking tongs, small mixing bowl

1.  Over medium heat, dry toast spices and quinoa until warm and fragrant - about 1-2 minutes.
2.  Add water, raise heat slightly, and just bring to a boil.  Once a boil has been reached, lower heat to low-medium, cover, and allow to steam for about 10-15 minutes.
3.  In the meantime, toss sliced zucchini, oil, and seasoning to coat in a bowl.  Heat sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat and sear zucchini, flipping with tongs to achieve blistering on each side.    Be wary of overcooking - you want the zucchini to retain some bite as opposed to cooking through and becoming overly soft.  Every time you place a slice of zucchini on the pan, you should hear a sizzle.
4.  Reuse the mixing bowl to combine all ingredients for dressing/marinade.  You can construct it like a classic dressing, adding the oil last, bit by bit, to emulsify and create a smooth, creamy, cohesive consistency.  But for the purposes of this dish, the dressing can be on the looser side.
5.  Once quinoa is cooked through, allow to cool slightly and then combine with zucchini, chickpeas, scallion, currants, and dressing.  Toss to combine and coat.
6.  Can be served warm, but I find it best to chill and allow the flavors to further come together.  Awesome to prepare in advance.

Beautiful blistering.

Flavors, colors, and textures - all coming together.

While I love quinoa, I find it to be quite messy to eat - carelessly flinging itself everywhere when trying to scoop it from the pan or deftly evading the tines of one's fork.  But in serving it with a dressing, it becomes vastly more accessible to one's mouth:  Win.

I like to massage raw kale, chard, or dandelion greens to serve as the bed for this salad, complementing the bright spiciness of the flavors and providing a nice contrast for the textures of quinoa, al dente zucchini, sweet currants, and chickpeas.  It makes for an ideal Summer lunch, dinner, or snack - giving me taste but also giving me useful nutrition to fuel my daily endeavors.  And when food not only tastes good, but feels good - physically, mentally, and spiritually - you begin to realize the gift of nourishing one's self mindfully.

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