Saturday, 24 March 2012

SmartCooks Tasty Quinoa Salad with Parsley, Celery, and Dried Apricots

March 2012 

SmartCooks here.  

Superfood Spring Salad with Quinoa, Celery and Dried Apricots.  Cooking Light and Fresh.   

Quinoa is the staple for this salad, and I mixed up a glorious batch of white, black and red found at my local health food store called The Wheat Berry.  It's pricey to buy pre-packaged so the store stocks it in bulk bins, at about half the price of packaged products.  

For storage, I found some inexpensive glass jars at the Dollar Store and transferred the bulk quinoa from the plastic bags to the jars -- all labelled and dated of course.  (And, no, not alphabetized in the pantry unlike some people I know... BH :) 

Lean, Protein-Rich Quinoa

The most common brands of quinoa are red, white and black grains.  For this salad, you can use any colour OR try mixing two or three colours together for a visual flavour hit. 

Cooking quinoa is simple if you keep an eye on it.  The trick is not to let it become a mushy, glutinous, cooked mass but to get it al dente and crunchy for a salad.  White quinoa needs the least amount of cooking and is the mildest in flavour which makes it great for salads.  Red is slightly stronger in flavour and needs a few minutes more cooking and black is strongest.  For good directions, check out The Good Vegan for cooking instructions.  Personally, I mix and cook all three colours together and watch it carefully for doneness.  Rinsing is key if buying in bulk.  

A Word about Parsley

The foodies and scientists keep discovering superfoods (like quinoa, for example).  Recently, I've read articles touting the many virtues of the humble table garnish aka Parsley, which has been elevated to superfood status and accredited with miraculous healing properties.  Bad on me for throwing it away all the time.  

Parsley (from a Greek word meaning 'rock celery') is the world's most popular herb. It thrives in most gardens, including in my back deck planters where it stubbornly clung to life last year while every other herb shrivelled to dust in the brutal summer heat. A sprig of parsley on the plate provides much more than decoration. It contains volatile oils that scientists call 'chemoprotective' i.e. potentially neutralize some types of carcinogens. Parsley is also rich in anti-oxidant nutrients and vitamins, especially vitamins K and C. Where was a bushel a day 10 years ago when I needed it? Just kidding...

A Word About Celery

Almost Zero Calories.  How much better does it get than that? 
Celery contains vitamin C and several other active compounds that promote health and may be useful in cancer prevention. It is a good source of vitamin C, which helps the immune system. In studies, celery also has the potential for reducing high blood pressure, for lowering cholesterol levels and acting as a diuretic. It's an all-round good vegetable.

Can't Overlook Dried Apricots

You know spring is almost here when apricots pop up in recipes. They are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh: not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some people think of the flavor as being somewhere between a peach and a plum, fruits to which they're closely related. They originated in China, arrived in Europe via Armenia and then in California in the late 1700s where they have flourished since.  Apricots are a good source of Vitamin A, fiber and beta-carotene and for helping to prevent some of the degenerative aging effects on eyes.  

Last but Not Least, Pumpkin Seeds

Native Americans used pumpkin seeds as both a food and for medicinal purposes, especially kidney problems and to treat urinary and gastric illness.  Current medical resources regularly list medicinal uses for pumpkin seeds, such as to promote prostate health in men and as a bone density and arthritis aide. Current studies in Asia, Africa and Russia continue to research their benefits in the treatment of parasites, depression and kidney stones.  
Quinoa Salad with Parsley, Celery and Apricots 

1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (red, white, or black), rinsed well
3/4 cup fresh curly parsley leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 T honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds, toasted
1. Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grains are still al dente.  Spoon into a bowl; fluff with a fork. Add parsley, celery, onions, and apricots.

2.  To toast the pumpkin seeds, place them in a large, heavy-bottomed, dry skillet over medium seat.  Shake the seeds constantly as they are toasting to prevent burning.  When the seeds begin to get golden, start to pop open and become fragrant, they are done.

3. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt, and black pepper. Add to quinoa mixture, and toss well. Top with pumpkin seeds.


  1. Of course, I'd be more than happy to come over and alphabetize your pantry :)

    1. Don't tempt me. I can barely get anything else in there. Food Bank R Me!