Yesterday we had a very special guest over for dinner–my sister’s boyfriend. It was the first time we got to meet him so it was very exciting. Paige wanted me to work my culinary magic to impress him, and I said ok. I didn’t really have anything planned. We did it on Saturday so that we could go to the farmer’s market in the morning and see what looked good and go from there.
So we went to the Golden Farmer’s Market and, as always, it was great. It is small enough that you don’t have to walk all over the place, but large enough to have most of the things you need. We get great dog treats from the Four Legger Cookie Factory (though we were already stocked up this weekend), bread from I can’t remember the name of the place (will report in soon), and veggies from local farmers. I had quinoa here at home left over from another recipe so I figured I could use that to make a good salad. I saw that a stand that we usually don’t buy from had beets. They were obviously shipped in from California, like most of the produce there (one of the reasons we don’t buy from Miller farms–that and the people who run it are very rude and look like they may be related and are married to each other, and lack certain teeth), but I thought it would still be delicious.
I was just introduced to quinoa a few years ago. It is one of the hot new whole grains to
try, and for good reason. It is nutty fluffy, and slightly crunchy, and looks fun. We really like it. I primarily use it for salads (read: it is the main ingredient and I just mix things in that sound good) but you can also have it just by itself as a side like rice or couscous. It is very high in protien for a grain, and is one of the ancient grains that have been “rediscovered” by the world (read: rich north americans and europeans). It was the main grain of the Inca.
It is nutritionally gold. It is one of the few plant sources of full proteins. It has every amino acid, especially lycene (great for repairing tissues). It also gives you almost half of your daily value of manganese per serving, and is also a great source of iron, copper, and phosperous. It is believed to help with migraines, and is great for people with diabetes.
Unlike the majority of grains we eat, it is not derived from a grass (yes, even corn is a grass). It is instead a relative of spinach and swiss chard and those types of plants. Anything that is related to swiss chard must be good, so that only promotes it more. Chard is also very closely related to beets. In Australia chard is known as silver beet. They’re actually very closely related, chard was just bred for it’s leaves and beets for the roots. I have eaten the chard root in the fall after I pulled everything up in the garden and it isn’t bad–very beety. And on the other side, you can eat beet greens. They are delicious and very nutritious. So this recipe is keeping it all in the family. As you see in the picture above, these seeds are grown on the end of clusters.
You can buy quinoa now at most normal grocery stores (well, at least you can in the Denver metro, you may not be able to in other parts of the US). I usually don’t get it there because it is very expensive and not good quality. Instead, when I am in the area I go to Whole Foods and buy it in bulk. It is much cheaper, and quinoa keeps well in the pantry. You should be able to get it at any health food store near you.
Quinoa and Roasted Beet Salad
- 1 c dry quinoa
- 1 1/4 c water
- 2 medium beets, with greens
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 tsp thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Feta Cheese
- 1.5 C roughly chopped beet greens fresh (you’ll cook them down). If not using beet greens: you can use chard, spinach, or any other green leafy. I actually recommend that if you only have 2 beets you supplement the greens with these other options. I used the greens of 4 beets and it was just the right amount.
- Cook the quinoa. First rinse it off. It has a protective barrier that can make it bitter, so you want to rinse it off. The problem is that the seeds are tiny, so to do it in a colander you need a fine mesh one. I swish it around in a bowl and then drain on a paper towel since I don’t have a fine mesh colander. Bring the water to a boil in a pot (the formula is 1.25 parts water to 1 part quinoa). Put in the quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer for 20 min.
- Cool the quinoa in the fridge.
- Roast your beets and onions. On the onions–just cut into strips long way (so through the top and root end each time). If you want to roast it in the oven or on the grill with your beets that is fine (it won’t take as long–so watch it). You can also saute the onions. When they are nicely cooked (so caramelized a bit and sweet) put in the fridge to cool.
- How to roast a beet: Cut the greens off about an inch above the top of the root. If you cut the top of it off it will “bleed” (it really does look like blood) all over everything. Leaving on the stems will prevent that. Rinse them off. Wrap in aluminum well so that the steam can’t escape. In the oven, roast at 400 deg for about 30-45 min. It’s about the same amount of time on the grill. They will be done when a fork easily pierces them. It takes longer than you expect, so be patient.
- When they’re done, remove from the heat and set aside. Allow them to sweat and cool off in the foil. When cool enough to handle you should be able to just slip off the skin. Put in the fridge to cool–keep separate from quinoa to prevent bleeding.
- Cook the greens. Put a little oil or water into a large saute pan and toss in the greens. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir in the pan until they are all JUST wilted. They should still be green–not black. Overcooking is why most people don’t like dark green leafies. Set aside to let cool (you can even put it in with the quinoa in the fridge).
- Once you are ready to assemble everything (once it has all cooled), chop the onions and put in with the quinoa. Make sure the leafy pieces aren’t too big. Chop up the beet in smallish pieces. Cut off the stem end and the long root end. Then just slice into rounds, and then cut those rounds into squares like you would with cheese.
- Put all the veggies, the quinoa, the oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl and mix well. It will turn a delightful shade of pink. Top with feta and enjoy!