I want to share this quinoa salad with you because not only was it delicious, but it's also really healthy. Quinoa has been around since 3000 BC, but mainstream society seems to have just now discovered the health benefits of this little pseudo-grain.
Quinoa is native to South America, and is actually the seed of a plant related to such leafy greens as beets and spinach. Since quinoa is a seed and seeds store all the nutrients they need to survive and grow on their own, quinoa is rich in protein and contains all of the essential amino acids. In fact, it's such a superfood that it's been developed into a cereal to feed undernourished children, and is also being researched by NASA as one of the crops they should try to grow in space since it is such a complete food. Pretty amazing for a tiny little seed!
I think I first heard about quinoa about 3 or 4 years ago, and now you can find it in regular grocery stores. While I am really glad that it has become more available, there isn't a great wealth of recipes out there using quinoa, which is probably the only reason why I don't cook with it more often.
Recently I did stumble on a recipe that intrigued a coriander, cumin, and lemon lover like me: Deborah Madison's Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit, Toasted Almonds, and Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette. It can be found here on Fine Cooking's website. Besides being excited by the spices and lemon, I also really liked the idea of nutty quinoa with buttery texture of avocado and the chewy tartness of dried fruit. In addition, the salad contains avocado and almonds, two other "superfoods" that health experts are always recommending that we eat.
I followed the recipe exactly, except I substituted the raisins and dried apricots for dried cranberries and dried apples (the fruits I had on hand). The flavor of the salad exceeded my already-high expectations, and I felt really good about eating so many things that are good for me all at once! I imagine this would also be good over mild salad greens for a complete (or rather, more voluminous) meal.