A Grain of Truth...

I think it's official: we've gone crazy for quinoa. Now that I've made two successful dishes with the South American grain, I've begun to accept it as a regular fixture in our diet. It doesn't hurt that it's full of protein, since I've been trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diet, as per Justin's wishes. I'm not quite ready to serve up a pile of unadorned quinoa as a side dish, the way I would with brown rice, but I've certainly opened my mind to the culinary possibilities of this unique grain. 

The other day I even found myself clicking through a slideshow of quinoa recipes on Food and Wine's website, looking for new dishes to try. What caught my attention was a quinoa salad recipe from Ottolenghi, a legendary chain of delicatessens in the United Kingdom. Though I haven't had the opportunity to eat at one of their locations myself, the foodie blogosphere is rife with praise for their prepared foods, and 2010's Ottolenghi: The Cookbook was met with much fanfare. I figured it was high time to jump on the bandwagon myself.

I appreciated that this recipe combined quinoa with brown rice, not only because I adore the toothsome chewiness of brown rice, but because quinoa is really somewhat pricey, and anything I can do to make the box go farther is welcome in my book. It called for combining the grains with apricot and pistachio (both items that I knew would go over well with Justin), onion, garlic, and a tangy citrus vinaigrette. While the results were decent, I wasn't in love with the dish.

I really didn't care for the greens that were included in the original recipe. I felt like they were a distraction, and that the pieces of lettuce were too big relative to the other components, making it more difficult to eat. In the future, I would leave them out, and let it be a true grain salad. I also felt that the salad was a little dry after it soaked up the vinaigrette, and could have used just a bit more moisture to improve the mouth feel of the dish. 

Other than that, I enjoyed the salad, and think it would make either a lovely healthy side dish or a nice, light lunch. It would also be perfect for a picnic. I'm not sure I quite understand the cultish hype that surrounds Ottolenghi, but I'll concede that with a few tweaks, their recipe certainly has potential...

Rice and Quinoa Salad with Orange and Pistachios
adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 c. quinoa, cooked and cooled to room temperature
1 c. brown rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c. freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. dried apricots, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/2 c. roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced

1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the orange juice, orange zest, lemon juice, garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the quinoa, rice, onion, apricots, pistachios and scallions and toss well.

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