Sunday, July 21, 2013

Seared salmon with quinoa salad

I haven't been cooking all too much over this past month due to lots of cake making, work, and my travels, but I do have some exciting recipes to share with you.

Today's dish was inspired by my friend Veronica. We were classmates in grad school and I saw her last week when I went back to SF for a friend's wedding/general visit with folks. It was a wonderful little trip catching up with so many wonderful people I spent so many years of my life with.

Slight tangent: I'd never want to live there (too cold, says the Chicagoan), but man do I heart San Francisco!

When I was staying with Veronica last week, she made this delicious quinoa salad with avocado, beans, and a bunch of deliciousness that I can't fully remember. And one of the first things I wanted to do upon my return to Chicago was replicate that amazing dish, as (a) I had gorged myself silly during this trip eating less-than-healthy food options and (b) Chicago was in a major heat wave, meaning all I wanted to eat were cold, light, refreshing dishes.

So I made a similar version of her quinoa salad, and topped it with pan seared wild-caught salmon and a few sprigs of asparagus. What an amazingly flavorful and filling, yet completely light and healthy, meal!!

Yours in finally eating a bit better after always "attempting" to do so,

Quinoa salad, adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup (uncooked) quinoa, but used 1 cup of quinoa for a bit of a heartier meal-- while keeping most of the ingredients with their original proportions. Feel free to use the smaller quantity of quinoa if you want the other goodies to dominate a bit more. 

1/2 to 1 cup dry quinoa, any variety
olive oil
2 cups water or veggie/chicken broth
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 orange, segmented and chopped (here's a short video on how to segment an orange)
1 to 1 1/2 avocados, chopped
1 cup canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (black beans or others would work great too)
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (you'll notice I don't use any as the stupid grocery store was out of cilantro....grrrr. Next time for sure!)
1 cup pomegranate arils (about 1 pomegranate worth), optional
salt and pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette
1 to 2 lemons, juiced (need 1/4 cup juice)
1 garlic clove, microplaned or finely minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
dash of sweetener (agave nectar, stevia or white sugar)
salt and pepper
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (use a bit less for a healthier dressing if you prefer)

  1. Cook quinoa: Rinse the quinoa well by placing it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinsing thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain the quinoa. 
  2. Pour a drizzle of olive oil in a small saucepan, heat to medium high, then toast and dry the quinoa for 1 to 2 minutes, letting the water evaporate. Add liquid, add some salt (if not using broth), and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover with a tight fitting lid, and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and cool thoroughly.
  3. Prepare the lemon vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake to combine. 
  4. Prepare the salad: Combine cooled quinoa with red onion, orange segments, avocado, beans, pomegranate arils, corn, cilantro, salt and pepper. Pour half the lemon vinaigrette over the salad, stir to combine, and taste. Add the remaining salad dressing to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature. 
  5. Store leftovers in the fridge for close to a week.
Seared Salmon

I don't have an exact recipe for this, and cooking times will vary drastically depending on the thickness of your salmon filets, but here's a rundown of directions replicating what I did.
  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet (or nonstick pan) with olive oil on medium high heat on a burner. 
  2. Drizzle olive oil on the flesh of the salmon (leaving the skin on the backside), and sprinkle with salt/pepper (or Old Bay). 
  3. Sear flesh-side down first (aka skin side up), then flip to cook the other side. My filets were quite thin, so they only took 2 - 3 minutes per side. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness.


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