Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quinoa Watercress Salad

so good for you-watercress and radishes
     I usually make this salad in the summertime, starting around the time that those long thin breakfast radishes first appear at the farmer's market.  Then I tend to forget about it as I am lured by the deep golds and oranges of the winter squashes that show up later in the season, when the air turns crisp and cool, and I start to crave heartier meals. Well, we are not even half way through the cold season, and as much as I love the sweetness and comfort of roots and squashes, I really needed something to remind me that spring will come again. So when I noticed a beautiful bunch of watercress at the supermarket, I immediately craved this salad.

      Watercress doesn't seem to be that popular here in the States, but I really love it. It's leaves are soft and tender and the stems are crisp and juicy. If you've never had watercress, its' peppery flavor is similar to arugula, and like arugula, is milder when young, and becomes more bitter as it matures. 

   It is a great choice for salads, not only for its flavor and freshness, but for its nutritional value as well. It may not look like it, but it is a powerhouse of vitamins A,C, and K. It is rich in beta carotene and other antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals. And, it also contains angiogenesis inhibitors, which are the things that block tumors from forming the blood vessels they need to survive. Angiogenesis inhibitors are now being used in the treatment of cancer. That's another reason for me to love this stuff.

    I kept this quinoa salad very simple with radishes and watercress, then perked it up with the lemon cumin dressing, but you could easily add a few more ingredients if you wanted to. Cucumber and watercress are especially nice together. Avocado is a welcomed addition to just about anything in my opinion. I once had the surprise of fresh watercress served atop baked leeks, and it was a very good combination, so you might want to try something like that here too. If you wanted to add a bean, I have in the past added edamame beans, and would suggest those as a very good option.

   I chose to use watermelon radish here for the drama of its beautiful color, but you could use daikon or any common radish you like.
Quinoa Watercress Salad
serves 4

1c. quinoa (soak overnight in several c. of water if possible)
1 1/4 c. water (2c. if grains are not soaked)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 bunch of watercress roughly chopped
1/2 c. of sliced or cubed radish ( you can cut it however you like)
note: you could also increase the ratio of vegetables to grain for more of a vegetable salad

1/4 c. olive oil
1T. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
 1 garlic clove crushed
juice of 1 lemon (2-3 T.)
3/4 tsp. salt.

   Drain and rinse the quinoa well. Add the quinoa, 1 1/4c. of water, and the 1/4 tsp. salt to a saucepan. Note that if you did not soak the quinoa you will need to use the larger amount of water.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-12 minutes (about 15 for un soaked grains), or until the water is absorbed. Be careful though, you don't want to overcook the grains. They should be soft and firm, but not mushy, so you can drain off any extra water if needed. Set aside for about 15 minutes, and then fluff with a fork and let cool.

   While the quinoa is cooking you can make your dressing. I have a thing with cumin. I never use it raw. So, when making the dressing, I put 1 T. of the oil in a small pan and heat it over medium heat .Then I throw in the 1T. of cumin, and fry it until it gets toasted and fragrant. This only takes seconds. I then add the cooked cumin to the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix well.
   Once you have all your vegetables, the quinoa, and the dressing ready, just mix it all together. Taste for salt and lemon. Serve at room temperature or cold.
p.s.  your liver will love the lemon and radishes, so amp up the perky flavor and liver support by adding extra of these if you like.

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