Recently I participated in the PennSuburban Chamber’s Cook-off and won the salad competition. While I love to cook for family and friends, I have never aspired to be a professional chef. Competing in this cook-off was something of a whim and was both more fun, and stressful than I had imagined. This is a photo of me at the event, prior to the voting.
The voting was done by both professional chefs and by the event attendees. The pros sampled all the dishes and awarded a variety of prizes for the dishes they liked the best. Alas, I did not earn any of the awards from the professionals. To be fair, none of the salads did. My dish won in the popular vote. The event attendees all had tickets and would “vote” for your dish by placing a ticket in the jar in front of you. Picture me standing there attempting to appear confident and friendly while serving sample cups of my salad to every passerby–hoping desperately that they liked it better than the other salads so they’d place their tickets in my jar. Ack! Can you say nerve wracking? I’m just thankful I could sip on some wine throughout the process. It was all I could do not to look at my competitors’ jars to see how they were doing by comparison. (I actually succeeded in not looking–a true test of my will power. The wine may have helped here.) In the end, my jar had the most tickets among all the salad entries, so I won the popular vote for that category. Hooray!
Since announcing the results of the competition, I have had many requests for the recipe. To make it easy to access and share, I decided to place it on my blog. If you make it, please leave a comment below and let me know how you like it.
Tanya’s Quinoa Salad with Mozzarella and Herbs
1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 cups marinated mozzarella balls (use the small bocconcini, cut into halves)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped fresh, flat leaf parsley
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced cucumber (seeds removed)
1 cup diced fresh tomato (seeds removed)*
*You can substitute grape tomatoes cut into halves or quarters
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
½ cup of olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse quinoa then toast in a pan with coconut oil on med-high heat for approx 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and either set aside to cool completely, or refrigerate. (Note: Quinoa has to cool completely before being combined with cheese, or the cheese will melt.)
Dice vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl along with herbs and mozzarella ball halves. Prepare red wine vinaigrette, then add to the bowl with veggie/herbs/cheese. To this bowl, add your cooled, cooked quinoa. Once combined, the quinoa salad is ready to be served immediately, or can be covered and refrigerated to be served later. The longer this sits, the more intense the flavors become. It’s a good dish to make the night before you plan to serve it.
For the competition, I made a little garnish to accompany the salad. It was essentially a mini Caprese salad on a bamboo toothpick. The garnish consisted of a rolled up basil leaf, ½ mozzarella ball and ½ grape tomato. (I’ve seen these served as appetizers at other events drizzled with a balsamic reduction.) They are as attractive as they are tasty.
p.s. Many thanks to Pam Kelly, President of the PennSuburban Chamber of Greater Montgomery County for encouraging me to do this. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I may do this again next year.