What do we name our creations? It’s not like naming a newborn where you can easily choose a family member or favourite character in a novel. My ability to choose the right name will determine whether you’re reading this right now or have passed it over, dismissing this as another trendy quinoa recipe. Recipes so often are named after a place, method, ingredient(s) or even the ingredient’s provenance. I fumbled around for awhile to come up with this name and as you may guess from this introduction, I’m not entirely sold on it. In the end, I settled on the primary flavours and components of this fresh summer salad. If you have a better name for this recipe, I’d welcome it as a comment below ….
The creation itself was fueled both by a need to create dish for a potluck I was attending and desire to use up more zucchini in my CSA share which just keeps coming, and coming, and coming ….
I chose an organic tri-coloured quinoa for this creation, but truthfully, you could use any colour you wanted. I chose not to use red or black quinoa because I wanted the cranberries to pop on display. The other strange ingredient in here is the pineapple mint I used. Again, regular spearmint would be just as good, but I loved the variegation of the pineapple mint and the little bit of citrus in it really worked with the lemon-maple dressing. For those wondering where to find pineapple mint, I don’t know, but stay out of my backyard.
Finally, there is no real mystery to making this salad. There is just a bunch of chopping to produce it. The only key, in my opinion, is let the quinoa cool before carefully mixing everything together … and while you can easily make this the night before serving, don’t mix all the dressing in until before serving to ensure the quinoa doesn’t soak it all up.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes + 45 minutes cool down
Total time: 75-90 minutes
Maple-Lemon Mint Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini and Dried Cranberries
- 2¾ cups of chicken stock
- 1½ cups of tri-coloured quinoa
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup chopped carrot
- 1/3 cup chopped celery
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 medium-sized yellow zucchini, cut lengthwise into eighths
- olive oil
- 2/3 cup (pineapple) mint, shredded (about 6 large sprigs)
- 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
- 3 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of roasted garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- maple syrup (to taste)
- 6-10 cherry tomatoes (garnish)
- Prepare the mirepoix by chopping the onions, celery, and carrots.
- In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the chopped onions, celery, and carrots (i.e. the mirepoix) until lightly browned — about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, measure out and wash the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.
- Add the quinoa to the pot with mirepoix and stir until well-coated.
Add a splash of the chicken stock to deglaze the pot and then add the rest. Bring stock to a light boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes until quinoa is tender and stock has been consumed. Remove from heat, uncover, and let stand. When cool enough, mix in a tablespoon or two of olive oil to keep grains from sticking together and place pot in fridge to chill further.
- Meanwhile, preheat your barbecue grill to about 400ºF and prepare the squash by slicing it in half, lengthwise. Further slight each half, lengthwise still, into quarters. You’ll now have 8 strips of zucchini. Carefully brush or use your hands to coat the zucchini with olive oil. Grill zucchini, cut-side down for 2½ minutes, then flip and grill other cut-side for 2½ minutes more.
Remove zucchini, let cool to the touch, then chop into 1/2″ (1cm) pieces and set aside.
- Chop the mint and parsley and zest the lemon and add to a large salad bowl. Chop the dried apricots and add these along with the cranberries to the salad.
- Meanwhile, while everything is cooling, make the dressing by squeezing fresh lemon juice into a graduated measuring cup and measure 1/4 cup of juice. Top up the measure with maple syrup till it reaches 1/3 cup. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Taste for sweetness. The dressing should be tangy but not tart … sweet, but not like dessert.
- When everything is cool, carefully mix the cooled quinoa into the chopped salad and fruit and add fresh ground pepper to taste, another tablespoon or two of olive oil, and the chopped zucchini. If serving immediately, pour in all the dressing and stir; if sitting overnight, then pour in half the dressing now, reserve the remainder for the next day, and add before serving.
- Garnish with halves of cherry tomatoes and a sprig of fresh mint … and enjoy.