Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

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.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit reicpe

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.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

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.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Reicpe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

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.

Quinoa Salad and Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

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:

Nifty Cake recipe 

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

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.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit recipe

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.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

 

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main Salad

Cuisine: American/ Vegan

4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

If you love avocados, like I do, you will love this quinoa salad. The lemon and cumin vinaigrette is bright with just enough seasoning to blend well with all the ingredients. I make this salad often for entertaining and weeknight dinners.

If you ever need a salad that covers many dietary considerations, this is the one to make. It is perfect for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets, as well as a crowd pleaser for everyone.

Use any color quinoa you like. I like the mix the white and red quinoa, but the red quinoa with the green avocado and orange apricot is very appealing.

You can make the salad ahead, but do not add the salad dressing, almonds and avocados until you are ready to serve. Best eaten the day it is made, but will be ok for leftovers the next day.

Recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine, by Deborah Madison 2009

Ingredients

  • 3 TB raisins, dark, golden or a mix of raisins
  • 2 TB dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red or white quinoa, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2-3 TB coarsely almonds

Instructions

  1. Add the raisins and apricots to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the dried fruit for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water passing through the strainer runs clear, not chalky. Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the water is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. You will see the germ ring that will look like a white curlicue around each seed.
  3. When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet on the stove at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the almonds and stir, shake or flip the almonds in the pan and toast the almonds until they get slightly darker and release their oil. About 1 minute depending on how hot your skillet is. You will start to smell the almonds as they toast. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn. Immediately remove the almonds from the skillet and cool. Once cooled, rough chop the almonds and set aside.
  5. Make the salad dressing. Finely grate the lemon zest into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and whisk until well combined.
  6. In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, apricots, raisins, avocados, scallions and chopped almonds. Carefully mix the ingredients together. Try mixing them with a fork so you do not squish the ingredients together. Then add the salad dressing. Mix until combined. Spoon into a severing bowl, garnish with chopped almonds, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.
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Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli. Spinach. Fresh herbs. These three ingredients are all that is needed to develop a nutritious and velvety smooth soup. No fat. No diary. Just vegetables and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get any purer and simpler than this. What I am talking about, is broccoli soup with spinach and mint. This broccoli soup recipe is deliciously satisfying, and so wonderfully smooth you won’t believe there is no added cream. Broccoli soup with spinach and mint is also the easiest soup that I have ever made.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

This recipe is from the cookbook, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell. I love this cookbook. The recipes are inventive, not complicated to make, and Jane likes to enhance the flavor of her food with a lot of fresh herbs. Jane Coxwell is the personal chef to Diane von Furstenberg aboard her sailing yacht. She gets to sail around the world, shop at international seaport markets, and cook delicious food for Diane von Furstenberg and the boat’s crew. The photographs of the food and markets are sunny with vibrant colors, and Jane always has a laughing smile on her face.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

If you have never made soup before and want to try, this is the soup recipe for you. Most soups begin with a base sometimes called mirepoix or sofrito. They usually consist of celery, carrots and onions that are sautéed until softened.  Mirepoix is the bodybuilder for stews, soups and some regional foods.  However, this broccoli soup does not have it or need it. Broccoli is the base, spinach mellows the broccoli and contributes to the smooth texture, and the fresh herbs add interest. All the ingredients contribute to the soups bright and pure flavor. If you love broccoli and spinach, then you will love this soup.

Keys to Success Making Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

The number one key to success is all about the blending. You will need special equipment to make broccoli soup with spinach and mint. The original recipe specifies using a blender, but I do not own one. I have made this recipe at different times using a food processor or an immersion blender. Both appliances worked with excellent results. My advice is to be patient, and keep at it. The whole blending process will take time. Just when you think you are done blending, blend some more. Later when you think you are done, blend some more. As you continue to whirl, the soup will become thicker, velvety smooth and develops an amazing bright green color. I have never been to Ireland, but I imagine the soup is the color of Ireland’s grassy emerald fields.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Another key to success comes from the secondary ingredient, the spinach. I believe the raw spinach, along with the blending, is responsible for creating the luxurious texture. Broccoli alone will not blend so smoothly because of its own texture. Understand that if you substitute the spinach with other leafy green vegetables like chard, it might taste great, but omitting the spinach will create a completely different soup.

This is a minor suggestion: I cut off the stems of the raw spinach before it is added the blender or food processor. Sometimes, even baby spinach leaves can have stringy stems.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

What to serve with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint:

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint pairs beautifully with goat cheese and olives. If you are lucky enough to have access to a delicious olive rosemary bread, toast it and spread it with creamy goat cheese.

Or, make croutons with the olive rosemary bread and garnish the soup with the croutons and a drizzle of yogurt or crème fraîche.

Additionally, any open face melty cheese sandwich made with crusty bread is yummy with soup.

We like to serve broccoli soup with spinach and mint for dinner smorgasbord style. Accompanied with grilled herb marinated chicken breasts, marinated artichokes, olives, goat cheese, and toasted bread. Joe refers to this type of meal as, “Soup and Stuff” and is one of his favorite dinners.

Anything salty, crunchy, tangy, creamy is divine served with broccoli soup with spinach and mint. Enjoy!

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Prep Time: 8 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes

4 12 oz servings

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint is a healthy, delicious soup that is velvety smooth. The fresh herbs and the luxurious texture make this soup special. This soup is super healthy for you with no added fat. A cinch to make.

You can change the herb combinations to suit your taste, but always use fresh herbs. Watch the quantities of each herb so they do not overpower the taste of the broccoli and spinach. Other fresh herb pairings are: mint and tarragon, cilantro and mint, parsley and mint, Fines herbs which is a classic blend of tarragon, chervil, and chives.

Special equipment is required to achieve this velvety smooth texture. A blender, food processor, or immersion blender are necessary to achieve the consistency specified in the soup.

Recipe is from Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled sliced in half and green germ removed
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 small handful mint leaves
  • 1 small handful basil leaves
  • Flakey Sea Salt such as Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • Honey or agave to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Fill a saucepan large enough to accommodate all the prepared broccoli with water add about 1/2 tea of Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut the broccoli heads by separating the florets and the stems. Trim the florets into small pieces. Set aside. Then cut the rough and thick end off each broccoli stem and discard, Chop the remaining stems into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. When the water comes to boil add the garlic halves and the chopped broccoli stems. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and cook until the florets are tender, but still bright green. About 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli and put into a bowl of a blender or food processor. (*If you are using an immersion blender you will need to do some juggling. Once you have removed the broccoli, pour the broccoli water into a container and reserve. Put the broccoli back into the stock pot that you cooked them in.)
  5. Measure 2 cups of the broccoli water and place in the blender (or pot) with the broccoli. Reserve the remaining broccoli water.
  6. Blend the broccoli until it is smooth. Add the spinach, mint and basil and continue to blend until very smooth. If you think you are done blending, blend some more. One of the outstanding features of the soup is getting the soup to have a luxurious and smooth texture. The blending step is what will set this soup apart from any other broccoli soup. It will take awhile to accomplish, even longer depending on what equipment you are using. The blending should take at least 5 minutes but possibly longer.
  7. If using a food processor or blender, pour the vegetable puree into a clean pot. Turn on the heat to medium and add broccoli water, a little at a time, into the stock pot with the vegetable puree. Keep adding until you reached your desired consistency. Taste the soup and season with the lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. (Be careful with the amount of lemon juice you add. The acid reacts with the green vegetables and changes the color from bright to drab.) Sweeten with about 1 teaspoon of honey or agave if needed. (optional) Taste and correct for seasoning.
  8. Serve warm for lunch or dinner. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The color might change after a day or more in the refrigerator.

Notes

The amounts of the ingredients are somewhat open to interpretation. Every head of broccoli is not the same size, as well as every handful is not the same. But one of the great characteristics about making soup is you can play around with the amount of ingredients without totally messing it up. The key ingredients are the broccoli and spinach. To give you some guideline, the two heads of broccoli weighed a total of 1 lb 8 1/2 oz / 697 g and the total amount of spinach weighed 2 1/8 oz / 61 g.

I once bought a head of broccoli at the farmers market that was so big, it could have been the equivalent of two or three heads of broccoli. Use your judgement and let your eyes and tastebuds be your guide.

You can add around 3 -4 sprigs, or less, of each fresh herb to your liking.

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A Hint of Summer on a Winter’s Day

I made a new discovery this past week. As I was walking around the produce department I spotted a fruit that I had never seen before, lemon plums. The color was what first grabbed my attention, a warm vibrant yellow with a thin smooth skin. Their shape is somewhat similar to a lemon and somewhat similar to a plum, but longer and a little larger. These days anything bright and warm looking will hold the attention of any skeptical winter weary person. The end of winter is here and we North easterners no longer see the virtue in the color grey. I stared at these lemon plums as if I was watching a long summer sunrise. Entranced, I collected some plums to buy and bring home.

Lemon Plums in season in winter.

My research informed me that lemon plums are in season now and from Chile. They are rare and I was instructed to snatch them up when I saw them. Lemon plums are picked when they are yellow and unripe. As they ripen they gradually turn the color of a reddish-orange, the darker they get the riper and sweeter they will become.

Ripening lemon plums

Ripening lemon plums

Continue reading “A Hint of Summer on a Winter’s Day”

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.