Thai quinoa salad with grilled squid and mangoes

He ate the boil of quinoa salad after the photo shoot. I remembered his brimming face when he finished the bowl of salad. He looked up with a blushing face. I was concern about the salad was too spicy. He shook his head enthusiastically. He didn't think it was too spicy. I recalled being nervous for a moment when he mentioned "complex"I wasn't really paying attention. Burrowing back into the bowl to clean up the last few specks of quinoa clinging on the rim of the bowl. I could see his sweat breaking up on his shiny forehead. He popped up again to tell me how delicious the Thai quinoa salad was. I was relieved. I returned a grateful smile.

That day was still chilly and was many years ago, I can't remember his name. All I can remember was that he's from California and his boyish sunshine grin. I knew he was impressed with the salad and photos. I was thrilled.
I remember the photo shoot was for an article on mangos - ways to cook with mangos, for a summer issue of a food magazine. We shoot in the chilly spring day early in the morning. I had cook the quinoa the night before. Carefully packing a large portion of the tossed salad in takeaway box. I knew the salad would hold up until the next morning with the arugula and herbs tossed in at the very last minute. I've grilled the squid to a perfect charred color- succulent and juicy. I've picked each mint leave and coriander, soaking them tn a glass of water ready for the next morning to be pack in zip lock bags. They are the props for the photo shoot. So were the scarlet red chili in uniform rings. Of course, I need not bring my own mangoes because the table set will be filled with all types of mangoes. But I needed mine to be perfectly cubed and had dressed them in lemon juice to stop them from turning brown - the natural sweetness balanced the acidic lime and lemon juice. They are to be tossed together at the very last. That day was delightful. The pictures turned up beautiful.

That was a very long time ago and also the last time I'd made quinoa.
Back to present time. I was at my sister's place a few weeks ago. As usual, I go to her kitchen and prob into her fridge eating off her abundance. For a reason I enjoy looking into people's fridges. The food they put together on the table for meals, be it dining alone, as a couple or a family. It tells a lot about a person. Anyway, I discovers tupperware of quinoa. She pulled one out and offered a spoon. She said it's her salad she had been packing for work for her husband and herself. It's their daily staple now. She told me how healthy quinoa is; about Its high protein content and delicate texture, how well they will hold up for a salad.

Oh yes, quinoa! I almost forgot how wonderful they are. And oh, my Thai quinoa salad - flavourful, chock-full of protein and veggies, satisfying and low in fat.

To cook quinoa
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Quinoa have  a bitter taste if you do not rinse it. To get rid of the bitter taste, place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain.

To make fluffy quinoa, toast quinoa in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate. Add liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in the liquid and the salt and bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat and cook covered for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to the lowest setting. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Let stand covered for 5 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and set aside until cooled to be tossed as salad.

Putting it together
Ingredients for salad
~Serves 3 hungry people as sides~
Handful pine nuts, toasted
Big bunch of mint leaves, roughly torn
Big bunch of coriander, roughly torn
1 mango, ripe but firm, peeled and diced small
2 shallots, finely slices
1-2 red chilies, finely sliced into rings
Handful arugula

Juice of 1 lime
Juice of ½ lemon
2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fish sauce to tastes

While the quinoa is cooling, make the dressing and prep the other ingredients. Once quinoa is cool, add everything. Toss well, then taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and lime or lemon juice if necessary (I usually add a bit more of all). Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To cook squid
3 squid, cleaned and sliced on 1 side, patted dry with kitchen paper.
Salt, pepper and olive oil.

Marinate squid with salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill squid on a smoking hot grill pan for 2 minutes each side.
Put the prepare quinoa salad on a large plate, add more arugula and serve warm squid on top.

-till next post, ss. 

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