I so needed this salad right now. Seriously. For a person who spends a fair amount of time looking at food related media it is a foil to the delicious but mind numbing amount of recipes for sweet holiday treats. Maybe some of you are feeling the overload before it even happens too. My answer to this is to stay balanced with foods that make your body say yes in a good way, foods that hit all your senses with balanced flavor and make you feel nourished.
The little twist in this ever-so-satisfying salad is the addition of whole, toasted coriander seeds. I was having a somewhat tossed together dinner, you know that "what have I got in my fridge?" kind of salad, and I had my little mortar and pestle in front of me filled with whole coriander seeds from a recipe test the same day. I reached out and decided to sprinkle a few on my salad and pow! Jackpot. The coriander seed compliments the apple and smoked fish superbly with a surprising, aromatic and slightly sweet crunch. Everything just worked so well in this salad that I fell in love with the combo and wrote it down immediately.
I had some really hearty hot smoked Superior lake trout in the fridge, so that got tossed in, but hot smoked salmon, trout, mackerel, whitefish or even a very firm salmon candy sliced very thin would be delicious in this salad. You really just want to make sure the fish is smoky, somewhat firm, and flaky.
I hardly ever have a salad without toasted seeds or nuts, and pepitas are super irresistible when simply toasted in a hot pan. Keep them on hand in your pantry and with a quick trip in a hot, dry pan you can have a sense pleasing snack or meal component full of healthy fats and toasty flavor. Toasting spices also elevates their flavor, so get those coriander seeds in the pan next and toast just until they are aromatic. Add the coriander seeds after tossing the salad to keep the seeds as crunchy as possible. The bites of the seeds you get here and there are a delicious little surprise.
The great thing about quinoa is that it is such a workhorse! It's almost impossible to cook a small enough amount of quinoa for just this one salad, so go ahead and cook a cup of grain (rinsed in a couple of changes of water) with 1.5 C water and a pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil, cover tightly, simmer on low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the grain to steam with the cover on for 5 more minutes. I really like to use as little water as possible when cooking quinoa, and this works best if you have a small, heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid. Make sure you can truly get a low flame/heat so that it just simmers. If the water cooks off too fast the grain will burn before it is done cooking or just end up under cooked. If there is too much water it will end up mushy.
When the grain is done, fluff it up and let it cool before using it in the salad. Enjoy the rest of your quinoa in soups or salads, tossed with vegetables of all stripes, scrambled with eggs, topped with tomato sauce and cheese, in a gratin, dressed with fresh herbs, nuts, or seeds, in a quesadilla, or hot with milk, honey, and fresh ground flax seed for breakfast. Quinoa is pretty much whatever you want it to be.
A single recipe is great as a meal sized salad for lunch or dinner. Divided, it is a perfect match for a half sandwich, cup of soup, or cheese and crackers, making a lunch for two. It's not bad with a glass of Chardonnay either! Enjoy!
Smoked Fish, Quinoa, and Apple Salad with Toasted Pepitas and Coriander Seed
- 3/4 C cooked quinoa, cold (see above)
- 1/2 C hot smoked fish, flaked
- 1/2 small crisp apple
- 4-6 leaves Romain lettuce, depending on size
- 1/2 C cilantro, roughly chopped
- Thinly sliced onion to taste
- 2 Tbsp raw pepitas
- 1 Tsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp plus 2 Tsp lime juice, about juice of one half of a plump lime
- 1 1/2 Tsp maple syrup
- 1/4 Tsp Dijon style mustard
- 1/2 Small clove garlic, grated or finely minced
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pepper to taste
Choose a salad bowl big enough for one large serving. Prep the salad on a large cutting board simply lining up each ingredient as you prep it. The salad dressing will be made in the serving bowl and the salad ingredients added to it.
Cook the quinoa as instructed above and allow to cool. Reserve 3/4 C for the salad. Flake the fish into about 3/4 inch pieces and remove any bones. Likewise, slice the apple into thin pieces about 3/4 inch pieces. Roughly chop the Romain in 3/4 inch ribbons lengthwise and cut up the middle if the pieces are particularly big. The goal is to keep the parts of the salad relatively the same size. Slice a little onion to taste. Coarsely chop the cilantro.
Next, toast the pumpkin seeds in a small, dry pan over medium heat until they brown and are audibly popping. Remove from the pan and now toast the coriander seeds until they become aromatic. Remove them from the pan.
In the salad bowl you have chosen, mix the olive oil, lime juice, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, sea salt, and pepper with a whisk until emulsified. Now add add salad ingredients except the coriander seed to the bowl and toss well. Top with the toasted coriander seed and serve immediately. Split into two portions if desired.
Yield: One large lunch or dinner salad or two side salads.