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Gluten Free Quinoa Salad Three Ways (Gluten-Free)

Before I went gluten-free, cous-cous salad was one of my all-time favorites, and I made it often. Cous-Cous is not a grain itself, but a tiny grain-like semolina pasta common in the Middle-Eastern/North African countries, and of course it contains gluten. Now I have re-created three salad recipes using a naturally gluten-free grain called Quinoa (pronounced “keenwa”). This unique grain, or seed, which was a staple food of the Incas in South America due to its stellar nutritional profile, comes in two varieties – plain, and the earthier “Inca Red”.

These lively whole-grain salads are easy to prepare for guests, potlucks, and picnics. They keep well, and can be ready in minutes. I usually make the Middle-Eastern version, but sometimes a meal like grilled lamb-chops or herb-roasted chicken works better with the Mediterranean version. The Mediterranean version is also great to make in the summer when fresh herbs and local tomatoes are in season. When fresh corn is in season, I love to make the version with corn and beans, highlighted by red onion and a zip of lime.

You simply toss all ingredients together with the quinoa, then with the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill salad in refrigerator briefly. Salad can be “refreshed” the next day by adding a small amount of fresh lemon juice or vinegar, and lightly tossing. Enjoy the taste of a wholesome nutritious grain that is safe for anyone with gluten sensitivity, yet easily available in your natural foods market.

Quinoa is very adaptable, and you may find yourself coming up with new versions. I’ve tasted quinoa salads with edemame, and bay shrimp, or nori, ginger and dark sesame oil. I can even imagine a quinoa salad with winter squash, walnuts, chopped parsley and sweet onions, and diced apples, using apple cider vinegar and walnut oil. You’ll come up with the best results by making use of locally grown fruits and vegetables in season. Now I can’t wait for those summer tomatoes and corn from my garden!

Cook ¾ cup prepared quinoa in 1 ½ cup water, ½ tsp. salt, and 1 TBSP. olive oil until thin ring around seed is visible and grain is tender but not mushy. Drain off any excess water thoroughly. Gently fluff with fork and allow to cool briefly while assembling remaining ingredients. Combine quinoa with the remaining ingredients in whichever recipe you choose.

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Middle-Eastern Style:
½ cup each:
Thinly sliced quartered carrots
Dried (Zante) currants
Sliced green onions/scallions
Finely chopped parsley
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Dressing:
2 TBSP. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBSP. freshly squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
¼ cup canola or walnut oil, or light, mild tasting olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced or use a garlic press
1 TBSP. honey
1/8 teaspoon curry powder + 1/8 teaspoon cloves
¼ tsp sea salt

Mediterranean Style:
1/2 cup each:
Thinly sliced diced seeded cucumbers
Chopped kalamata olives
Sliced green onions/scallions or red onion
Diced tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes
Crumbled sheep-feta cheese (optional)
Pine nuts, toasted (optional garnish)

Dressing:
2 TBSP. Red Wine Vinegar
1 TBSP. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon g.f. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced, or use a garlic press
¼ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, or pinch each ½ teaspoon garam masala, or dried marjoram & oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper

South of the Border Style:
¾ cup canned or fresh cooked small red beans or black beans
¾ cup frozen sweet white corn kernels, or an equivalent amount of freshly grilled sweet corn kernels cut off the cob
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro (or substitute fresh basil in season)
½ cup diced fresh tomato (optional)

Dressing:
¼ cup each freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes (to taste, optional)
Finely chopped parsley, mint & parsley, or parsley & basil

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