Friday, November 9, 2012

A new side dish for Thanksgiving

The Beet

Express Staff Writer

I hit a sweetness wall the other day. In an adrenaline-fueled baking spree, I made a super-dense sour cream chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate-peanut butter ganache. It was absolutely out of this world.

The problem was, I only got three-quarters of the way through my 2 million-calorie piece of it before my stomach rebelled. The level of sweetness and richness was almost painful, and for the first time ever when faced with a partial slice of cake, I put down my fork and walked away.

Apparently I am in a savory, healthy mood. While this is good for people who don’t want to gain winter weight and for people whose editors have forbidden them from writing about baked goods until at least Christmas (hint: both me), it’s bad for my sense of culinary accomplishment.

So I went on the hunt for a challenging, full-of-flavor recipe that was hopefully Thanksgiving-appropriate. I am, quite frankly, sick of recipes for sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, mashed potatoes with sour cream and Brussels sprouts with bacon. I wanted something awesome, something original and something I could bring to a potluck without worrying that someone else would have brought the same dish.

Enter quinoa salad. Quinoa is my new favorite ingredient, an ancient grain that is packed with protein, naturally gluten-free and deemed acceptable for consumption under most diets. It cooks just as fast as white rice and has a lot more nutritional value—and flavor.

In this salad, the cooked quinoa takes the place of a heavier pasta or rice. Quinoa has a great, fluffy texture and takes on the taste of the chicken broth it’s cooked in, making for a starch component more flavorful than the norm.

The salad is the perfect side dish for a turkey, with the nutty flavor of the quinoa playing with the almonds and offset by the sweet tang of dried cranberries and apple. 

If you like, you can add browned sausage to this salad with the onions, craisins and apple to make more of a meal. When I do that, I always serve the quinoa with a spinach-garlic salad to green up the plate. This serves two as a light meal if you add roughly 3 ounces of diced sausage.

As for this dish curing my craving for a challenging project, it can be tricky to cook the quinoa exactly right. It’s meant to be fluffy, with little spirals coming unwound from the grain. 

Keep an extra bit of broth around in case your pot simmers dry too soon, and be prepared to stir constantly over high heat if you add too much broth.

Bring this to any Thanksgiving potluck and I promise that your host will be impressed. Alternatively, stay home, eat the entire bowl by yourself and give thanks that you got out of roasting a turkey this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Almond Quinoa

Adapted from the food blog Iowa Girl Eats

Serves 4 as a side


1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 green onions

1 small apple, chopped

1/4 cup chopped almonds

2 Tbsp dried cranberries

Rinse quinoa very well in a fine mesh strainer under cold, running water. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan, then add rinsed quinoa. Place a lid on top, then simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.

Add green onions, chopped apple, almonds, and cranberries to the slightly cooled quinoa. Toss to combine, then serve.


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