Thursday, 26 January 2012

Mandarin Sesame Quinoa Salad

I don't know about you but I love a good salad.  I like a salad even more when someone else makes it for me but we can't always get what we want, now can we?  Since I don't have an in-home salad maker named Sven to make me said salads I like to keep my salads pretty simple, yet filling and oh so yummy. 

On the days that I work I have to admit that bringing a sandwich just doesn't entice me anymore.  I've never been a sandwich kind of person, or a wrap person either.  And don't get me started on bringing cold pizza (ew - nasty!!).  My perfect lunch at work would be a cold salad of some kind, be it pasta or otherwise (I also wouldn't say no to a nice lunch out either!).

This cold quinoa salad meets all of my cold salad requirements.  It's got sweetness from the mandarin oranges, a crunch from the sunflower seeds, a tang from the feta and the delicious combo of sesame oil and balsamic!!  Oh yum!

The main difference between this salad and my typical pasta or green salad is that the base for this salad is quinoa.  If you haven't yet heard of quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wa') you've gotta give it a try.  For some unknown reason, for the past few weeks I've been totally crushing on quinoa.  By that I mean that I've used 2 boxes of the stuff in 2 weeks.  Ya, I'm totally infatuated with this little odd little grain/seed.   Not only is it tasty but it's also hailed as one of those Super Foods (minus the cape and tights) that everyone is going on and on about.  Here's a rundown of all its positive attributes:

- light texture
- slightly nutty flavour
- very easy to cook
- gluten free
- source of protein
- high in fibre
- contains the vitamins: riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin E, folic acid, beta carotene
- contains essential amino acids, like lycine, that has been proven to increase immune system response
- it will give you a body like Sophia Vergara's

Ummm, that last one may not be totally accurate but one can hope, right?  Quinoa is a veritable gastronomical rock star!!  With all those benefits, no wonder quinoa is the cool kid on the culinary block these days! 

When I got my first glimpse of quinoa back in the summer I have to admit that it wasn't love at first sight.   I don't want to be cruel but quinoa ain't pretty.  It's kind of odd looking with it's bumps and squiggles but I adore the texture (it has an al dente bite to it) and the flavour (a very light nutty flavour).  Plus, it's uber easy to make!  Even I can't screw it up!!  Literally a few minutes and you've got a base for a salad, meatless patty or a side dish!

Today I'm sharing a recipe for a cold salad that I made for my week of work lunches.  I've eaten this salad for 3 days and couldn't be happier with it.  I've added sunflower seeds to it because I love a little crunch in my salad and their flavour really adds to this salad.  I also increased the sesame oil just a tad from the original recipe because I found it a little too subtle for me. 

So, if you're tired of the old 'ham and cheese' sandwich and are in the mood for trying something a little different give this salad a try. 
Sesame Mandarin Quinoa Salad

1 Cup uncooked quinoa

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil

Pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/2 Cup red or orange peppers, diced

1/4 Cup chopped green onions, the green part

1/4 Cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup shelled sunflower seeds

284mL can of mandarin orange segments, drained (approximately 1 cup)

Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

In a small bowl whisk the oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, salt and pepper until well combined.  Pour over cooled quinoa and mix to combine. Add the sweet peppers, green onions, feta, sunflower seeds and mandarin oranges.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Inspired by: Picky Palate's 'Sesame Quinoa Salad Delight'

Yield: 4 servings

I've linked this recipe to the following parties:


TheBookGirl said...

Quinoa rocks!
I use it all the time, and my favorite is the Ancient Harvest Red Quinoa.

I'm going to try your salad, though I will omit the feta (not a big fan).

Jen at The Three Little Piglets said...

I just recently had cold quinoa for the first time, and I loved it. I'm not sure how I'd never tried it. But I like it way more than a cold pasta salad...

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

BookGirl -- I'm not sure why I didn't jump on the quinoa bandwagon earlier! This stuff is great and healthy!! I'm sure you'll like it with our without feta. :)

Jen -- I'm with you on loving it as a cold salad. I find it not as heavy as a pasta salad. Plus, quinoa has less guilt than pasta, right??? ;)

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