Ah summer. I always crave food with fresh, vibrant flavors and textures this time of year. I also like to cook and eat food that isn’t heavy, did not take me an hour of standing over a hot stove to make, and doesn’t necessarily need to be piping hot to be delicious. To that end, this week I’m featuring two easy and tasty recipes full of bright flavor and crunchy texture. First up is a new quinoa salad I threw together one night recently and that really hit the spot after a long day of garden chores. I’m always on the hunt for more quinoa salads, and this one will definitely stay in my “go-to” rotation.
Vietnamese-Inspired Chicken Quinoa Salad
Yield: about 4 adult servings
2 chicken breasts, poached
1 C quinoa, cooked
1/2 t crushed red pepper
2 T sesame oil
1 C cilantro stems (not the leaves)
1 t ground ginger
1 lemongrass stalk
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 limes, juiced
2 T honey
2 T sugar
1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C coconut milk
matchstick cut carrots
In a small skillet, heat sesame oil to hot. Add the red pepper, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and cilantro stems. Cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, coconut milk, honey, and sugar. Strain through a fine mesh colander or sieve to remove the solids.
In a bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, the cilantro and mint leaves, the matchstick carrots, and the shredded cabbage. Add dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately or chilled for a few hours. Taste is best on the first day because the dressing will be absorbed by the quinoa. If you want to portion this for lunches throughout the week, reserve the dressing to toss just before serving.
This next recipe is an old family-favorite. It takes the classic American Chinese takeaway flavor and puts it into a family-friendly and easy medium–the meatball. I first came-up with the idea when my daughter (now 12) was a toddler and meatballs were like, so cool. I wanted her to explore new flavors while also exciting the palettes of my husband and I, and this one hit the spot all around. We’ve been making and eating this ever since! You can use ground beef, of course, but I tend to use ground turkey more than ground beef in my cooking.
Mongolian-Style Meatballs with Basmati Rice
Yield: 4 to 6 adult servings
1/2 C hoisin sauce
1/4 C tamari reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
1 t garlic powder (I was out of fresh garlic, but didn’t mind the powder frankly)
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 t red pepper flakes (adjust the heat to your taste)
1/2 C plain bread crumbs
1 pound ground turkey
1 C basmati rice
2 1/2 C water
2 bunches green onions, sliced on the bias into 1 inch pieces
1 C matchstick cut carrots
olive oil oil
In a mixing bowl, combine the hoisin, tamari soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder ground ginger, and red pepper flakes. You should have 1 liquid cup. Remove all but 1/4 C from the bowl and set aside.
Whisk 1 egg into the sauce in the mixing bowl, then add the ground turkey and bread crumbs. Combine with your hands as you would a meatloaf or other meatball, then shape into ping pong ball sized meatballs. You should get 24.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes until done.
Meanwhile, make the rice by boiling 1 C basmati rice with 2 1/2 C salted water. Bring to a boil, stir once, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, or according to package directions, without opening the lid to stir. Simply turn off the heat under the pan and remove it to a cooler place when the timer is up. DO NOT OPEN THE LID UNTIL READY TO SERVE. When ready, open the lid, dish out the rice with a wooden spoon and it should be perfectly steamed, fluffy, and just a little sticky – perfect. 🙂
After meatballs are done in the oven, in a large skillet, heat one turn of the pan of oil to rippling hot. Add the carrots and cook 1 minute. Add the green onions and cook 30 seconds. Add the meatballs and reserved 3/4 C sauce, toss to combine, and cook for 1 minute more, until hot. Serve immediately with the cooked rice. Garnish rice with finely chopped green onion, if desired.