When I first ate quinoa, my gratitude propelled my love for it more than its flavor. I was desperate for another gluten-free option to replace rice, and I was also on a low-glycemic diet. I can eat wheat and other gluten-protein grains, but several of my friends can’t. So, serving food that everyone can eat, not feel different or left out is my entertaining and personal philosophy. Quinoa is a perfect grain (seed), to eat and a great source of protein for plant-based diets. Ever since my discovery of this recipe, quinoa salad with avocado and dried fruit makes a regular appearance on my dinning table, especially for entertaining.
I discovered this salad recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine 2009, in an article featuring avocado recipes. Next to dark chocolate, avocados are one of my favorite foods. Naturally, the recipe grabbed my attention. During the time, I needed vegan and gluten-free recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. The quinoa salad with avocado turned out to be the perfect option, a two for one deal. Additionally, this quinoa salad turned my attitude around from not just being grateful, but liking quinoa as well. This salad appeals to everyone, not just people who are vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet.
There are many reasons why I love this salad and the taste is just one of them. This quinoa salad is just as much about avocados as it is quinoa. With a ratio of about 2 cups of cooked quinoa to 2 whole avocados, you get a creamy avocado morsel in every bite. Being a major avocado fan, I find this significant amount of avocados wonderful. What’s not to love about an avocado in every bite? There is never such a thing as too much avocado.
The dried apricots and raisins adds punch and concentrated flavor. The nuttiness of the quinoa and creaminess of the avocado provide a foundation for the dried fruit to pop. You do not need a lot of dried fruit, a little goes a long way. The deep orange color of the apricots adds a nice attractive element to the salad as well. If you live in an area where apricots are grown, try substituting fresh ones for the dried apricots. The only consideration is, once sliced, apricots get mushy and aged looking after they linger. However, adding a fresh ripe apricot might be worth a try.
The lemon cumin vinaigrette is much brighter than it sounds. Thanks to the absorbing power of the quinoa, the cumin flavor is in the background and does not overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. The cumin adds a bit of earthiness against the airy and lemony sunshine. The taste of the flavors are unexpected, yet truly complimentary. I love it. The blend of the quinoa, avocado and dried fruits with the dressing is a nice balance of sweet, acid, nuts and earthy flavors. It is not a heavy dressing, just enough to season the ingredients. Therefore, the quinoa salad does not taste or look oily.
More Gluten-free recipes:
The only thing I change is, I like to add fresh herbs when they are available. Basil adds a nice bit of fresh green sweetness, and even parsley or mint works. If you want to add cilantro, substitute the lemon zest and juice with lime and see how you like it. Quinoa and avocados pair well with a variety of herbs and spices, just be careful not to overpower the salad with too much of anything. If you need a more substantial meal or substitute for almonds, chickpeas are also delicious in this salad.
Making this salad reminds me of my hometown in California. I can picture so many parts of my childhood with each ingredient. Eating avocado sandwiches with my friends at a restaurant in Strawberry. Climbing our apricot tree and picking them before the birds got them. But, what really touches my heart is when I rinse the quinoa. Running my hands through the cold, wet and gritty quinoa seeds, reminds me of making sand castles and building forts at Cronkite Beach. It’s usually cold, foggy and the sand is rough. Despite the cold, I love the Marin Coastline and will forever hold it dear in my heart.
Food has a way about savoring old memories and making new ones. Deborah Madison created this recipe, but after making it for so long and cherishing new and old memories, it feels like my own.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
While in my mid 20’s I commuted into Manhattan by train from Bedford Hills NY. As commutes go my morning routine was generally relaxed. Joe would drive me to the train station in Bedford Hills, and we would get breakfast at a place called Leslie’s Kitchen. They served the best apple muffins and every morning I asked for one. Joe and I would eat our muffins and talk before my train arrived. Not a bad way to start one’s commute.
Unfortunately Leslie’s Kitchen does not exist anymore, but I still think of those apple muffins. What I liked about them was, they had chunks of apples in the muffin and sprinkled with cinnamon. They were also extremely moist and light. Leslie’s apple muffins were delicate muffins that did not weigh me down like some muffins will. It might not have been a hearty breakfast, but to this day I have not seen or tasted apple muffins like the one’s I had from Leslie’s Kitchen.
I was thinking about recipes that would be great to serve for breakfast on Christmas morning. I wanted to share a recipe that was easy to make, something that could be made ahead, and had a touch of festive cheer. My pondering concluded with an inspiration to recreate the apple muffins I longed for from Leslie’s Kitchen. As a result of my recipe testing, combining, swapping, and improvising, I came up with a recipe that is similar to what I remember of Leslie’s Kitchen apple muffins but are all dressed up for the season. Since it is December and overflowing with holiday spirit and celebrating, I included a glaze to add some sparkle and pizzaz to my apple muffins.
My recipe is adapted from three recipes. Two are from Joy of Cooking and one idea from Baking Illustrated Cookbook. First, I combined and adapted Joy of Cooking standard muffin and their apple and walnut muffin recipes. I added dried apricots and yogurt and omitted the cinnamon. The yogurt addition in my recipe created the moistness and lightness similar to the apple muffins I was recreating.
Then I decided to add sparkle and shine, so I dressed up these delicacies with an idea from Baking Illustrated, and brushed a lemon glaze over the muffin tops then dipped them in lemon sugar. This one small step converted good muffins into fabulous party worthy muffins with lemony crystal sweetness and sparkle.
My recipe for apple muffins is not exactly the same as Leslie’s, but they do remind me of them and satisfy my apple muffin cravings. Apple muffins with lemon glaze are festive breakfast muffins that shine with lemon sugar crystal twinkles and the warmth of apples. They are a delightful way to start your day and will satisfy peppy early risers and grouchy morning people alike. Enjoy!
Make ahead tip for Apple Muffins:
Joy of Cooking says you can freeze muffin batter. Spoon the muffin batter into muffin liners and freeze. First freeze the batter in the muffin liners while still in the muffin tin. Then, take the frozen muffins out of the tin and place in a freezer bag. Keep in the freezer until ready to bake. When baking day arrives, place the frozen muffins into the muffin tin then bake. The baking time could take longer, so watch carefully.
If freezing is not your thing, mix the dry ingredients together the night before. Then finish mixing the recipe the next morning. I would not recommend making the muffin batter the night before you want to bake them, because the leavening could weaken overnight.
© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.