I count my blessings everyday to be married to such a wonderful health coach and chef. However, that privilege doesn't exempt me from the occasional daydream to the hamburgueseria down the street on days when I hear we are having salad for lunch. Nothing against salad. I love salad - especially with Olga’s yummy grapefruit dressings. But my mom was a mid-Westerner. And growing up, a salad consisted of a side dish with light green crunchy iceberg lettuce concealed by a layer of ranch dressing decorated with croutons. (Side note: never confuse achiras for croutons while you are in Colombia. That conversation doesn’t end well.) So when I hear we are having a salad for lunch, not a side dish, I’m already thinking about an early afternoon snack.
If your instincts are like mine were, all I can say is to go into this dish with an open mind. It works out in the end and here’s why. We’re still talking about a salad here. So vegetables are indeed the main ingredients. However, when you add some good protein and a little bit of starch you find yourself with a very balanced and satisfying meal.
Here are some tricks to the trade behind the scenes. Keep cooking practical and by doing so, eating at home becomes much more sustainable. When it comes to salad, roast batches of vegetables, meats, and make enough dressing so it can last for multiple meals. Now you’re cooking one day and simply assembling salads for the rest of the week. Mason jars are your friends. Bonus tip for the parents out there: the pre-roasted ingredients also make great snacks for your little one’s lunch.
Here is the method to the madness for our quinoa and roasted turkey salad. Soak the quinoa prior to cooking it. As explained in more detail in the Colombian lentil stew recipe, properly soaking and cooking grains is of most importance for nutrient absorption and ease for digestion.
We (and when I say “we,” I mean “Olga”) also use Kombu algae to cook the quinoa. Kombu helps with the digestibility of grains and provides a wide variety of valuable nutrients. We use it every time we cook grains and legumes. Sea vegetables are rich in iodine which supports thyroid function. They are also known for decreasing inflammation in the body, help prevent cancer, and are rich on folic acid, magnesium, and B vitamins.
This recipe calls for a generous amount of chopped onions and celery to the quinoa as well. When you cook grains with vegetables, the water in which they cook becomes more of a mineral broth. It is also a great way to add even more vegetables to your diet (yes, even if you already are eating salad). When time is tight (and when isn’t it?) a decent option to save the day is a scoop of quinoa mixed with a can of tuna.
For the quinoa:
- 2 cups red and white quinoa soaked overnight
- 1 small onion - diced
- 6 stalks celery -chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 cups of water for cooking (since the quinoa was soaked overnight, it needs less water that it says on the instructions)
- 1 piece of Kombu algae
For the turkey:
- 2 turkey breast tenders
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- mix of dried herbs (you can pick your favorite)
- 1 grapefruit
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Romaine lettuce - chopped
- Cucumbers - finely sliced
- Baby carrots - julienned
- Apples - sliced
For the Quinoa:
- Heat a sauce pan to medium-high and add the olive oil.
- Add the onions and celery and sauté for about 4 minutes.
- Add the quinoa and sauté for an extra 30 seconds.
- Add the salt, the water and the piece of Kombu.
- Bring to a boil, then bring down to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the quinoa is soft. Some people like it al dente, I personally prefer it well cooked.
- Set aside when done.
For the turkey:
- Preheat your oven to 375 F
- Place the turkey breast tenders on a baking pan.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and dried spices, in this order.
- Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the breast tenders.
- Let cool and slice very thinly with a chef’s knifes.
- Set aside.
- Place the romaine and arugula in a bowl and dress it with part of the grapefruit and olive oil. Leave some dressing for assembly.
- Squeeze the whole grapefruit into a bowl.
- Add the olive oil salt and pepper and mix well.
- On a plate or a salad bowl serve about half a cup of the quinoa with veggies.
- Place the salad greens on top and towards one of the sides of the quinoa.
- Place the remaining ingredients on the portion of quinoa that is still uncovered.
- Once you’ve placed all the other veggies, drizzle with the rest of the dressing and enjoy.