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 a while. 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 (woohoo!), 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 with 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, but this dish is also ridiculously simple to make – the longest you’ll spend working with anyone 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 you’re own! Pulse a couple of 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.