This salad, from Ottolenghi's newest cookbook NOPI, brings a lot of goodness to the table.
First, a huge serving of red quinoa provides a dose of "superfood" to our diets, adding even more nutrients, if that's possible, to a green salad. Second, the sharp flavors of the salad ingredients work well with most fish and seafood dishes; it's substantial enough to stand on its own. Third, pickling vegetables has been all the rage lately. The shallots in the salad get a boost of complex flavor and mellowing of the allium stink from a quick 30-minute pickling, a technique I am all too eager to learn more about.
A larger amount (200 gm) of quinoa goes into this dish than watercress (150 gm). I was surprised to see more grains than greens in a salad. But I can't be happier to add more quinoa every opportunity I have, knowing that it's so good for you. Quinoa is a complete protein. Other grains are usually combined with legumes to achieve the same nutritional value. Red quinoa may be harder to find than white quinoa, but the darker color adds a nice visual pop to the salad.
One unusual ingredient in this recipe is sumac, used in pickling the shallots. Ground sumac is a versatile and essential spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It has a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice and milder and less acidic than vinegar. A small sprinkle adds a soft cherry color to any dish. Ground sumac also makes a nice, flavorful topping on dips like hummus. As I discovered on my trip to Turkey that it is used in everything -- from dry rubs, marinades, a tabletop condiment and dressing over vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish. I picked up a bottle of ground sumac after the trip as I was missing that pleasant, fruity and tart flavor to sprinkle on cucumbers and salads when I returned home.
I needed some sweetness in the salad dressing, so I added one tablespoon of honey to balance it out. This addition is highlighted in red in the cheat sheet above. The red quinoa and watercress salad is joining IHCC's April potluck gathering together with another spring salad I posted earlier.