Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quinoa Salad with an Asian Twist

One of my go-to recipes over the years (including the period when my daughter was allergic to wheat) has been a tasty gluten-free quinoa salad described in "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. We've adapted the dish to include Chinese herbs—goji berries and walnuts—in addition to mint, raisins, and green onions, also used in Asia for their healing properties. I usually double the recipe because the dish disappears so fast!

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 cup goji berries and/or raisins
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 green onions, white bulb and 3 inches of green, sliced
1/2 cup walnuts and/or peanuts, unsalted
1/2 cup fresh orange, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (optional)
Salt, to taste

1. Combine the quinoa and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Add the goji berries and/or raisins and continue cooking until the liquid has disappeared, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the quinoa-goji berry mixture from the heat and spread it on baking sheet or dinner plates to cool completely.
4. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa-goji berry mixture with the sesame oil, green onions, walnuts/peanuts, orange pieces, mint leaves, and orange zest. Salt to taste, if desired.

About Goji Berries
Goji berries have been used in Chinese cooking and herbal medicine for thousands of years. Similar to raisins, goji berries can be cooked, eaten raw, or brewed into a tea. Goji berries are now widely available not only at Asian markets, but also at natural food stores and even the health food aisles of some regular supermarkets. The fruit is rich in nutrients, such as beta-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin C, as well as other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. Studies have suggested that an element of goji berries can prevent macular degeneration, deter tumors, enhance the immune system, and protect the liver. In traditional Chinese medicine, this herb, which is considered sweet in taste and neutral in temperature, nourishes the Blood and the yin, increases the essence, and improves vision.

About Walnuts
Walnuts have a host of health benefits, according to both the Eastern and Western perspectives. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and are now being studied in the West for their potential for reducing the damage of unhealthy fats and for counteracting Alzheimer’s disease. The Chinese call walnuts “longevity fruit” (chang cheng guo 长生果), both because walnut trees live hundreds of years and because walnuts impart health to those who eat them. According to traditional East Asian medicine, these sweet, warm nuts enter the Lungs and Kidneys to ease coughing and wheezing, counteract fatigue, increase sexual potency in men, and treat frequent urination; they also moisten the Intestines to relieve constipation.

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