Dinner Together: Pick quinoa for protein

Pack an extra punch of protein into your summer salad routine with quinoa.

Whether you need a dish to share at a backyard barbecue or you just want to have a salad ready for summer lunches, this Asian Quinoa Salad is an easy fix.

I’m always drawn to that popular cabbage salad that has crushed ramen noodles in it, but I wanted to find something with a few more redeeming nutritional qualities. I found an avalanche of similar recipes but I liked the idea of including quinoa instead of ramen and letting the cabbage provide the crunch.

There were dozens of quinoa salad ideas online and in cookbooks, so I combined the best of a couple of recipes I found. There is a colorful array of crunchy summer veggies, including red peppers, green cabbage and orange carrots. Red cabbage can be easily substituted if that is what you have on hand. Cucumber, cilantro and edamame are nice additions.

There is a natural nuttiness to quinoa, so it works well with the soy, sesame oil, garlic and ginger dressing. Quinoa is gluten-free and has a low glycemic index. The whole grain also provides the eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

This salad was a great side dish for grilled fish, but it could be a main dish. Add shredded chicken or pork for a light-yet-hearty entree salad. Throw in some sliced almonds and white or black sesame seeds if you have them. Or, cut back on the quinoa and throw in a couple of handfuls of baby spinach instead.

Cooking quinoa isn’t nearly as tricky as some would lead you to believe. Following the directions on the package, I rinsed the quinoa before adding it to a pot of boiling water. After 15 minutes, I turned off the heat but left the lid on the pot for an additional 5 minutes so the grains could continue to steam.

If you want to add more flavor to the quinoa, try cooking it with chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Remember to substitute tamari for the soy sauce to make the salad gluten-free.

Asian Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water or broth

1/2 small head cabbage, finely sliced

1 cup shelled and cooked edamame

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 cup diced cucumber

4 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the dressing:

1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Add quinoa to boiling water in a medium saucepan. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the heat but leave the lid on for 5 minutes to allow quinoa to continue to steam. Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork and allow to cool.

Place quinoa in a large bowl and add the cabbage, edamame, red bell pepper, carrots and cucumber. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce or tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

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