Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

My Dad is a nutritionist’s, personal trainer’s, and doctor’s dream. He follows instructions and has admirable levels of will power. Over the past several years, he has gradually lost weight and completely changed his lifestyle, all under professional guidance and with no extreme diets or fad exercise routines. He’s definitely the healthiest septuagenarian I know.

When I visit him in California, I benefit from all this because all I have to do is wake up and get dressed and I have a ride and a gym buddy every morning. We usually do some grocery shopping afterwards, for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and the occasional pre-made dish from the Whole Foods salad bar. One day his favorite one of these, a quinoa salad with corn and black beans, was no longer available. It had become one of my faves as well, and I was disappointed to not see it in the fridge when I was home in June. I decided to recreate it myself, and Father’s Day seemed like just the occasion for it.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

Shopping for produce in California is AN ABSOLUTE JOY. I never really appreciated this before moving to Dubai. The availability of local produce in California is exceptional, and the summer haul is hard to beat. I still come across some California fruits in Dubai, but it makes me sad to think about how long they must have been sitting on a boat to get here. Not exactly fresh from the farm. Not to mention the sticker shock of all the imported goods, and by imported goods I mean nearly everything.

Enter this fresh sweet corn from Northern California! I admit, it’s been a very long time since I’ve actually shucked corn and cut it off the cob myself. I tend to just keep frozen corn stocked and had convinced myself it “tastes the same.” NO it does not! The extra effort is definitely worth it. That said, of course you could still make this recipe with good ol’ frozen kernels.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty
I roasted the corn on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This was definitely the star of the dish. Of course, the local avocados also helped. Lately it seems I don’t eat much without adding avocado to it. I can’t help it, I’m Californian. It’s what we do.

I made a pretty huge batch so that Dad (and I!) could enjoy the leftovers for the rest of the week. Good thing it was a hit, because we sure did have a lot of it! That day I served it as a side for some roasted salmon, along with some truly special heirloom carrots. It’s also great on its own for a light and healthy lunch (Dad-approved, vegan and gluten free, btw) and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer BBQ. In Dubai we can only have winter BBQs, but you get the idea.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Big Batch of Salad
2 cups uncooked white Quinoa
3 ears of Corn, cut off the cob
2 large Avocados, diced
1 red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 can Black Beans, rinsed
Handful Cilantro, chopped or cut with shears
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Dressing
Juice from 2 Limes
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs Honey
1/2 to 1 tsp Chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

NOTE: This is a big batch, but you can easily reduce amounts of everything if desired!

To cook the quinoa, bring the 2 cups of quinoa plus 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan on the stove. (If you are cooking for fewer people, try 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Just remember it’s always a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa). As soon as it’s bubbling and boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for a bit before adding other ingredients, as the salad should be served room temp or slightly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Add corn kernels to a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Combine cooked quinoa with prepared vegetables, beans, and cilantro, adding the corn when it has cooled. In a separate bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Treat the given measurements as a guideline, adding more or less of what you like to suit your tastes. Skip the chili powder if you’re averse to spicy (like my Dad!). Taste it to make sure it’s not too tart or too spicy, and add a little more honey and/or salt and pepper if needed to balance out the flavor. Drizzle over the salad and lightly toss together.

If you want to garnish with some pretty avo slices like in the photo, this is how to do it:
Slice the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Gently peel off the skin, which should be easy if it’s ripe. Lay the avocado half flat-side down and slice lengthwise in narrow strips. Pick a few pretty bits to fan out and place on top of your salad so when you enter the party everyone says OOOOOOH briefly before eating it all and telling you how awesome you are.


© Cook it Pretty 2016


All Rhubarb Everything

A special treat on my recent US vacation was baking with my Mom. We knew we wanted to make something together, and for some reason I had rhubarb on the brain. I realized I had never worked with rhubarb myself, as much as I have always loved my Mom’s tart and sweet rhubarb crisps. I didn’t even know how to shop for it. Time for some lessons with Mom, which turned into TWO amazing rhubarb recipes: Rhubarb Crisp & Rhubarb Mojitos.

5 large stalks weighed about 2lbs

Pink celery.

We were a little late in the standard season, which is usually May. Apparently the Pacific Northwest has a second summer season, and we were lucky enough to find some healthy looking stalks in Northern California. Make sure the stalks don’t seem rubbery or dried out – they should be heavy and taut. I love that something that looks like magenta celery turns into such delicious sweets.

Stewing the rhubarb with sugar and water

Stewing the rhubarb with sugar and water

We chose a method that requires simmering the rhubarb in sugar and water to soften and sweeten it up before adding the crisp topping and baking. The topping we ended up with tasted like a big oatmeal cookie on top of the tart rhubarb filling, and the combination was perfectly satisfying.

The fantastic bonus of this stewing method is that you’re essentially making rhubarb simple syrup. We wound up with about 1 1/2 cups of gorgeous, hot pink sweetness once we strained out the rhubarb filling. We couldn’t let it go to waste, so we decided to turn it into Rhubarb Mojitos!

Baking, making cocktails, and toasting to sweet kitchen success with Mom made for a wonderful summer afternoon. Today I’m thinking of her on her birthday and looking forward to our next kitchen collaboration!

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp

4 cups chopped rhubarb (about 5 large stalks or 2lbs)
1 1/2 – 2 cups granulated sugar (1 1/2 for tarter, 2 for sweeter)
Water (just enough to cover the rhubarb in the pot)

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large pot, simmer the rhubarb, water, and sugar over low-med heat until soft (about 7 mins). Strain the rhubarb and add filling to glass or ceramic baking dish. Retain the liquid for later use.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, and spices in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the top of the rhubarb filling.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes (until the top is golden). Top with vanilla ice cream or enjoy straight up.

Rhubarb Mojitos

Rhubarb Mojitos!

Rhubarb simple syrup (leftover from rhubarb filling above)
Mint leaves
Club soda
Lime wedges

Simmer the liquid from stewing the rhubarb for an additional 15 minutes if needed (do a taste test to see if the rhubarb flavor is strong enough for you, or if it needs to cook down/concentrate a little more). Let cool and refrigerate.

Muddle a few mint leaves and lime wedges in the bottom of a glass. Add ice and pour over 1-2 oz of rum. Add rhubarb syrup, to taste. Top with club soda and squeeze in more lime if desired. Garnish with more mint, lime, or raspberries.

Toast to your genius & enjoy!


HBD America: Pinterest vs. Reality

I would love to get a little patriotic and host a party here in Dubai for the 4th. In my Pinterest dreams, said party would look something like this:

Pinterest 4th

Adorable patriotic party foods! Find recipe links here.

Then I remembered anyone I know who would really appreciate such details doesn’t live here, and I’d be hosting primarily former military dudes. Let’s be real, it would probably look more like this:

Real 4th

Which is also fun…

Also, am I really going to cut fruit into star shapes? How long does it actually take to make triple layer jello shots? Where would I even find blue sprinkles around here? If you are more ambitious than I am this holiday weekend and want to find the how-to’s for all that really cute stuff, check out my “Happy Birthday America” Pinterest board and please let me know if you try one!

Even if we just have a party of two and a few American beers, I’m still planning to wear my patriotic striped sailor shorts. Happy Birthday, America!