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Quinoa Salad with Apples, Arugula + Sweet Potatoes

In the first month of the year a person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of quinoa – or isn’t that how that line goes? No matter. In these tentative first weeks of 2013 I would imagine a lot of us have turned our thoughts, lightly or not, towards eating better, eating less, eating right – and quinoa figures into that a equation a whole lot.

But let’s get real here: my thoughts are often turned towards quinoa. I’ve loved the stuff for years without apology. So when I saw a holiday-ish quinoa dish on the Sprouted Kitchen I knew I had to make it mine. And as I’ve put together big bowls of it three times in the past week I thought I should write it out here rather than hoard all that goodness for myself.

This is a salad of simplicity: roasted sweet potatoes (I like to roast ’em good and long so they get a bit caramelized) are tossed with cooked quinoa, chopped apples, arugula and a hint of parsley then dressed with a simple mix of apple cider vinegar and olive oil that has an undertone of nutty tahini sauce. I have been making large quantities and stashing it in the fridge; it fortifies me through long days of recipe testing and also serves as a nice counter to all the sugar that’s been flying (sometimes literally) around my kitchen lately. I’ve also been incorporating sweet potatoes into nearly everything in the past few weeks to sate an inexplicable penchant for them (do I have some sort of vitamin deficiency?) and I love how their sweet softness here contrast against the sharp bite of arugula and the crisp apples.

Last week we ate it for dinner along with a lot of sesame-fried tofu (I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day after a cool and sunny run and it was all I could think about for the last mile or so; I was not disappointed). I made another round for my friends who are new parents, rightly thinking it would be a good healthy balance to the macaroni and cheese I also gave them. And I made it again last night when we had my parents over for dinner, serving it alongside little roasted potatoes and green beans and a piece of halibut. Simple, nourishing fare, yes, but it’s what I want these days (and most days).

Meanwhile I’ve been manically – and perhaps also maniacally – testing recipes for my cookbook and plotting others to make soon. I’ve had some spectacular successes (coconut cake, carrot cake cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting) and some epic failures (flourless angel food cake I will triumph over you) and have foisted off all the sweets on my friends, parents, husband’s coworkers, the neighbors across the hall … It’s an interesting things, attempting recipes and knowing if all goes well they will be published and thrown out into the wider world. I am so very picky about the food I make, which I hope will serve me well here; at the same time, there is a certain amount of insecurity that comes along with it. What if the recipes work for me but no one else (well – that’s why I have recipe testers)? What if I have peculiar taste that doesn’t translate well? What if no one likes them?? You see how you can get a bit turned around.

Still, I press on. May 1 will be here so very quickly and there is no time to waste. I focus on the successes, make myself big bowls of quinoa salad, go for runs in these chilly mornings, and drink my (strong coffee) and I know it will be alright.

[print_this]Quinoa Salad with Apples, Arugula and Sweet Potatoes, adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Light and filling at the same time, this salad never fails to satisfy. Serve with fried quinoa and big glasses of freshly-squeezed blood orange juice if you are so inclined.

Makes 4 servings.

2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 large), cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper
2 large apples, diced (granny smith, fuji, honeycrisp etc.)
4 cups baby argula
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp tahini
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400’F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil and hearty pinches of salt and pepper. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 25 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Put a drizzle of olive oil in a pot and add the quinoa; toast over moderate heat for two minutes. Add 1 1/3 cups water and bring it to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15-18 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the quinoa and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, tahini, olive oil and pinch of salt and pepper. Add the cooled quinoa, sweet potatoes, apple, arugula, parsley onion, and sunflower seeds and toss everything to coat. Serve immediately.


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