Walking Through the Creation of Citrus With a Warm Quinoa Salad

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It’s really just a coincidence.  Perfect timing you could say.  I was inspired to make this quinoa salad with citrus after an incredible New Year’s Eve dinner at The Village Idiot in Lexington.  A mixed grain feast for both the eyes and the palate, wheat berry, quinoa and farro were tossed together and topped with bright grapefruit and blood orange, the burst of citrus perfectly complementing the light vinaigrette, marrying every element on the plate.  It was a wonderful second course and I began playing with recipes at the start of the year.

My take on this salad doesn’t come close, but it is born of the same spirit and is a an absolute cinch to throw together.  Mix and match as you please – just toss your favorite grain or three (such as quinoa, wheatberry, farro, bulgar wheat and the like) with my favorite champagne vinaigrette.  Top with whatever citrus you are currently obsessed with and relish in the bright bursts of flavor.  I decided to throw in some fresh avocado for creaminess and a touch of good-for-you fat.  Cheers to citrus!

 

First things first: the quinoa!  Rinse one cup of quinoa through a sifter or mesh strainer.  Combine the quinoa in a pot with two cups water and one half tsp kosher salt.  Just like cooking rice, bring the quinoa to a boil, stir, cover and drop the heat to low.  The quinoa will simmer away for fifteen minutes until it is fluffy and light as air.  At that time, remove from the heat and allow to sit – lid on – for five minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, assemble the dressing.  I adore champagne vinegar.  While lighter than it’s balsamic cousin, champagne vinegar still brings that wonderful bite, the addictive quality of most all vinegars.

The ingredient line-up for this recipe is similar to the dressing I used for my poached egg and pancetta salad, with a few alterations to highlight the mandarine orange.  Simply combine the following in a bowl: one tsp dijon mustard, one tsp minced garlic, the zest and juice of one mandarine orange, two tsp freshly minced parsley, one tbs champagne vinegar, one quarter tsp kosher salt and one eighth of a tsp freshly ground black pepper.

Whisk the dressing together while slowly pouring in four tbs of olive oil.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  The mandarine orange will be a back flavor here but feel free to add more juice and zest if you like.  Because we are adding whole mandarine slices to mix, I wanted to make sure the citrus didn’t overpower the rest of the elements.  But we are celebrating citrus in the post so go ahead – add as much as you’d like!

Mmmm.  The quinoa is ready!  Pour the dressing over the warm grains and toss together.  The quinoa will soak up the vinaigrette, absorbing all of the delicious flavors.

On it’s own, the quinoa with our champagne-citrus vinaigrette is tasty and delicate.  The addition of whole slices of mandarine oranges adds wonderful color and texture, each wedge bursting with flavor and delightful juice.  Peel four oranges and break the citrus segments apart, setting them aside.

Slice one avocado into small bites and scatter over the top of the quinoa.  Peel one more mandarine orange and squeeze the juice over the avocado and into the salad.  This final splash of citrus not only adds more flavor but will also keep the avocado from browning.  Add the mandarine segments and serve.  A touch of bright, healthy goodness during this otherwise cold and dreary winter.   I’ll drink to that!

Serves Four

  • one cup quinoa
  • two cups water
  • one half tsp kosher salt
  • one tsp dijon mustard
  • one tsp minced garlic
  • six mandarine oranges, divided
  • two tsp freshly minced parsley
  • one tbs champagne vinegar
  • one quarter tsp kosher salt
  • one eighth of a tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • four tbs of olive oil
  • one avocado, sliced into small squares
Rinse one cup of quinoa through a sifter or mesh strainer.  Combine the quinoa in a pot with two cups water and one half tsp kosher salt.  Just like cooking rice, bring the quinoa to a boil, stir, cover and drop the heat to low.  The quinoa will simmer away for fifteen minutes until it is fluffy and light as air.  At that time, remove from the heat and allow to sit – lid on – for five minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, assemble the dressing.  In a bowl, combine the dijon mustard, garlic, the zest and juice of one mandarine orange, parsley, champagne vinegar, one quarter tsp kosher salt and one eighth of a tsp freshly ground black pepper.  Whisk the dressing together while slowly pouring in four tbs of olive oil.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Pour the dressing over the warm grains and toss together.  Peel four mandarine oranges and break the citrus segments apart, setting them aside.  Slice one avocado into small bites and scatter over the top of the quinoa.  Peel one more mandarine orange and squeeze the juice over the avocado and into the salad.  This final splash of citrus not only adds more flavor but will also keep the avocado from browning.  Add the mandarine segments and serve.