With Halloween behind us and November staring us in the face, it is safe to say the holiday season has officially begun. Two invitations to parties so far and I am already thinking of suitable recipes for dishes that are unique, have wide appeal and carry well. I am also all about seasonal so that too plays into it. Let’s take a closer look at the aforementioned criteria. First is unique: something different from the usual holiday offerings. I get really tired of seeing the same old, same old at every party. Chips and dip are fine but let’s put a little creativity into it. I once hosted a pot luck and ten people brought bags of chips without even a thought to dips! What does one do with that? The food pantry got nine of them, that’s what I did with it. At risk of sounding snotty and ungrateful, I think a little thought into your offering is not too much to expect. Even if you are too busy to make it yourself, which I fully understand, at the very least go to a deli and purchase something already prepared. It gives the message that you care enough to give it some thought. OK, I will quit the rant and get on with it. Let’s discuss “wide appeal.” I know you cannot please everyone’s palate but I have found you must consider the audience. If you bring something too exotic or weird, no one will know what it is and you will most likely be carting a large portion home. Although “food fear” is not something I can relate to, it does exist. The final is, does your dish carry well? By that I mean can you serve it at room temperature and is it table ready when you arrive. Many hosts are thrown off-guard when over space is requested and there is none available. Also, if serving buffet style, keeping some things warm can be a challenge. Nothing wrong with a crock pot, but please provide your own unless previously arranged with the host. You may also want to give a heads up that you will need an electrical outlet so that can be planned ahead. You certainly don’t want your dish in the kitchen while all the other food is in the dining room, right?
That said, the recipe I give you today, in my opinion, meets all the criteria. Different enough to spark interest but not too unusual that it won’t get eaten and it is ready to go when you set it down on the table. In addition, it presents beautifully. Made with red quinoa (KEEN-wah), dressed with a lime vinaigrette this salad is bright and nutty. In addition, it is nutritious! Quinoa is an ancient grain and considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids, it is also lower in carbohydrates that most grains. It provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients and when paired with all the ingredients in this salad is quite tasty.
Here’s how it goes down.
QUINOA SALAD w/ LIME VINAIGRETTE
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
Quinoa, cultivated hundreds of years ago in the Andes by the Inca farmers is a nutritious and practical grain for everyday eating. It cooks fast and is high in protein and minerals. It does go rancid quickly so keep it refrigerated.
1 c quinoa (I really like the Inca red heirloom variety, cooked according to package directions or as directed below)
Heat in a large deep skillet over medium heat:
1 t olive oil
Add and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning:
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly until the grains are separate. Stir in:
2 c water or stock
½ t salt
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 20-25 minutes, or until the curly “germ” is exposed. Fluff with a fork. Spread on baking sheet to cool before tossing for the salad.
Add and toss to combine:
¼ c pine nuts, toasted
6 dried apricots, finely chopped
3 T golden raisins
2 T dried currants
2 T cilantro, chopped (flat leaf parsley can be substituted)
Lime vinaigrette (enough to coat the ingredients but not too wet, recipe below)
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
Taste and adjust seasoning and add more dressing if needed.
This is a recipe for the simple all-purpose vinaigrette. Substituting lime juice for the vinegar and lemon makes this tangy and tart, the cumin seeds add more depth of flavor.
½ T finely minced shallots
½ T Dijon mustard
¼ t salt
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice, more to taste
6 T extra virgin olive oil
Pinch toasted cumin seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
Stir shallots together with the mustard and salt. Whisk in lime juice; when well blended start whisking in oil by droplets to form a smooth emulsion. Beat in the cumin seeds and pepper. Taste, adjust with salt, pepper and/or drops of lime juice as needed.
This salad has a wonderful balance of flavors. It is nutty (the quinoa has a natural nutty quality), sweet from the dried fruits, crunchy and buttery from the pine nuts and the lime and cilantro add a splash of brightness and acidity. I know when it has accompanied me to parties it is always eaten and there are many recipe requests. You can make it your own by adjusting the ingredients to suit your individual taste. I like to garnish food with s bit of the ingredients so guests know what is in it and it is colorful and festive thus enhancing the eye appeal.
So last week I gave you an appetizer idea with the mini meatballs and today a salad. I hope this is helpful for your holiday celebrations. I plan to keep the party ideas going next week so stayed tuned for more ways you can spread the love, one dish at a time. Until next time, I hope you are feeling it from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne