Wednesday, June 08, 2011
SPRING QUINOA SALAD WITH RADISHES AND MICROGREENS
I never really liked radishes, mostly because they were only ever presented to me whole, raw, and on their own, in which form I found the flavor too sharp and bitter. But the more I got obsessed with food, and vegetables in particular, the more I wanted to like radishes. They are always described as peppery, and I like things that are peppery, like arugula, and, well, pepper. And they’re so crisp and cool and clean and so very pretty! A lot of food blogs touted thinly sliced radishes on bread with butter and salt, which I tried and found palatable but not craveworthy. And then I realized that maybe it would be better to try radishes as an ingredient instead of a main feature, where there flavor could blend into and complement a larger dish. And then I saw this alluring salad at The Kitchn, and y’all know how I love quinoa salads and lemon, so it seemed like just the thing to help me warm up to radishes.
I had never bought microgreens before, and I found them easily at Trader Joe’s, albeit in a 2-cup package when the recipe, which I’d decided to double (because all my other quinoa recipes call for 1 cup of quinoa and I know that makes the perfect amount of leftovers), called for 3 cups. I bought two packages, but found I couldn’t cram much more than 2 cups into the salad without overflowing the bowl anyway, so in the future I’ll just stick with 2 cups, which was still plenty of tender, tasty microgreeniness. Then I realized that doubling the recipe meant that it called for 6 tablespoons of butter, which seemed wildly excessive. I get that the recipe creator was trying to mimic that bread-and-butter-and-radish-and-salt combo I mentioned earlier, but since the butter was just melted into the quinoa cooking water, rather than being featured as a cold and creamy spread, I doubted so much was necessary. Besides, I’d decided to add feta to the salad, because I love feta more with each passing day, particularly in quinoa salad. So I cut the butter way down to 2 tablespoons, and I suspect you might just as well leave it out completely. The feta brings the cold creaminess way better and, it turns out, tastes awesome with radishes. I also increased the lemon quantities, figuring I’d might as well use all the juice from the one I’d just zested. The flavors of this salad are so delicate that I welcomed the added zip.
After all this beneficial tinkering, I totally effed up the recipe by absentmindedly quadrupling the water quantity and massively overcooking the quinoa, which came out sodden and sticky (you can see the sad clumpiness in my photo). But despite this textural tragedy, the flavors were still so delicious, novel, and springy, I knew I’d found a way to love radishes and a salad I’d enjoy many times to come—in fact, I’ve already made it again, and with the quinoa properly cooked, I can attest that it’s truly a knockout. And the cheerful pastel green, pink, and yellow make this one of the more beautiful dishes to grace my table in recent memory.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2–3 cups microgreens
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
¼ cup thinly sliced basil
Zest from 1 medium lemon
Juice from one medium lemon
½ teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt
4 ounces feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
1. Measure out quinoa, place it in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse thoroughly with cool water, and drain.
2. Place quinoa in a small saucepan with water and butter. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool completely.
3. Toss the cooled quinoa with all other ingredients. Taste and add more salt if desired.
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Great.