I noticed that I’ve been neglecting my vegetarian friends lately (and that I’ve reached a weight loss plateau already; why is this so hard after 30?), so I wanted to work on something different, something sans meat. Or even cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love my meat & seafood; it just gets dull after awhile. And okay, I confess I was having a “nut & twig” day – I wanted something earthy & nutty tasting as opposed to my recent flavor-centric meat dishes. The Co-op has their bulk red quinoa on sale this week (woo hoo!), and since I’d yet to cook with it but had a fun idea for a salad featuring the “mother grain”, I thought I’d grab about 1/2 pound of it. I knew I still had some gorgeous broccoli at home and thought it would go well with the red quinoa and some tofu. And wanting to depart from my usual vinaigrette dressings, I decided to experiment with an almond butter based dressing. Something in my head told me this would all go beautifully together both aesthetically and tastewise, and I couldn’t wait to get home to make it (though I got sidetracked by a new stray kitten that seems to be hanging out on my front doorstep. Please remind me that my apartment is too tiny for yet another cat!).
I’m glad I listened to myself because I was right. And not only is it super tasty, this dish is also ridiculously simple to make – the longest you’ll spend working with any one ingredient is the 1/2 hour or so it takes to cook the quinoa (after rinsing it). It works well as both an entree or a side, by itself or over some fresh greens, and packs a nutritional punch no matter how you serve it. And at less than $5 for the entire bowl (this easily serves 3), you are reminding the food industry that yes, healthy CAN be affordable! Anyhow, you can easily make this with regular quinoa if you don’t have access to the red; however, if you can find the red you should go for it because the end result is just beautiful with the green of the broccoli set against a bed of deep reddish brown quinoa (and now that I think of it, next time I will use some finely chopped red onion instead of the green to bring out more of the color & flavor of the individual ingredients). Flavorwise I noticed the red version has a slightly nuttier quality to it than the regular version, so either way it’s a fun departure from the norm.
As for the almond butter dressing, I wouldn’t suggest substituting with peanut butter as it completely changes the flavor of this dish. It’s a bit too overwhelming for the subtle flavors of the other ingredients; the creamy sweetness of the almond butter seemed more appropriate. And if you are lucky enough to have a store that offers different varieties, try to get the raw, creamy style as it’s the easiest to use when making dressings. Can’t find almond butter anywhere? Make your own! Pulse a couple cups of raw almonds in a food processor until smooth, and voila! Usually they have enough of their own natural oils to make this just as perfect as the jarred kind.
Anyway, enough of my babbling. Time for the fun part! Hope you like it as much as I did.
Red Quinoa & Broccoli Salad with Almond Honey Vinaigrette (serves 3; total cost per serving: ~ $1.65)
1 small head of broccoli cut into very small florets (about 1 cup’s worth)
2-3 green onions, chopped
6 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T cooking oil
1/4 c sliced almonds (optional)
Almond Honey Vinaigrette
3 T raw creamy almond butter
1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t honey
Splash of white vinegar
Pinch of salt
2 T water
Make the dressing by combining the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together until smooth. Add the water a few drops at a time to help thin the dressing a bit. Cover and set aside.
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet and add the garlic. When lightly browned, add the tofu and a dash of salt. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes or until tofu begins to brown just a bit. Add the broccoli and cook quickly until the broccoli becomes bright and tender.
Combine the quinoa, tofu, and broccoli in a large bowl and mix together gently. Add a couple tablespoons of dressing and mix until completely combined. Drizzle with some extra dressing on each serving, garnish with sliced almonds and scallions, and enjoy!