Quinoa, the supergrain of the future, is loaded with health benefits. First and foremost, it is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat because it is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. So along with heart-healthy avocados, a side of Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit, Toasted Almonds, and Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette is sure to win you points in the ‘eat well’ department.
Besides its attractive maroon color, red quinoa has a slightly deeper, nuttier flavor than white quinoa. Both, however, are excellent in this bright, lemony salad.
If you need more convincing, quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels and may help you to lose weight as it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods. It makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food.
And avocados are no slouch in the healthy eating department either. This fruit is prized for its high nutrient value and is often referred to as a superfood. They contain more potassium than bananas and are loaded with heart-healthy monosaturated fatty acids. In addition, like quinoa, avocados contain a relatively large amount of fiber.
Then you throw in dried fruits. Again more fiber! Plus, dried fruits like apricots and raisins used in this recipe contain high amounts of beta carotene, vitamin E, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Dried fruits consist of little to no fat but also contain significant calories per serving, so it is with a watchful eye that you add a judicious amount.
And if that’s still not enough to sway you, let’s talk quickly about the health benefits of almonds. A high-fat food that’s good for your health? That’s not an oxymoron. Almonds help to lower the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. They do this by lowering the LDL (or bad) cholesterol in the body by significant amounts. And a quarter cup of almonds contains more protein than a whole egg. One last plug for almonds. They appear to not only decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result.
OK, enough about how healthy all of the ingredients are. How about eating it because it tastes good? We were very impressed with this dish and plan on making it often—just love the crunch of the toasted almonds. I think it would be a great addition to a picnic or potluck because it can stay at room temperature for quite some time.
- 3 Tbs. raisins (preferably a mix of dark and golden)
- 2 Tbs. dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
- Kosher salt
- 1 large lemon
- 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
- 2 medium firm-ripe avocados (6 to 7 oz. each), pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 2 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped toasted almonds
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and turn it out onto a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
- Finely grate the zest from the lemon and then squeeze 1 Tbs. juice. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice with the olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
In a large bowl, toss the vinaigrette with the quinoa, raisins, apricots, avocado, scallions, and almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
An easy way to cube the avocado flesh is to score it in both directions with a pairing knife, then scoop out with a tablespoon.
No need to worry about keeping this salad warm because it can be eaten at room temperature.
By Deborah Madison from Fine Cooking
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