Inspiration for the lunch box

Summertime offered me an opportunity to try a variety of salads bursting with colourful fruits and vegetables, all plentiful in September. These salads were an inspiration for future lunches come fall. Here, then, is a sample of some of my favourite summer dishes, which let me imagine I am still on holiday during those first few days back at work!

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad with Peppers and Corn.

This is a meal in itself and only needs a piece of fruit and a drink to make a complete lunch. The flavours mellow if prepared a day ahead; the salad keeps well covered and refrigerated for up to three days. Pack an ice-pack in the lunch to go.

1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa
1 cup (250 mL) water
1 bay leaf
1 can (19 oz/396 mL) black beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups (375 mL) red, orange or yellow peppers, diced
1 cup (250 mL) each, corn and cherry tomatoes, halved
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup (50 mL) coriander or parsley, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup (50 mL) each, lime juice and vegetable oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, salt, cumin and granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a sieve with several changes of water. Drain. Add quinoa to medium saucepan with the measured water and bay leaf. Cook over medium high for 15 minutes covered. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes. Discard bay leaf. Spoon quinoa into large mixing bowl; cover and refrigerate. Meanwhile combine beans, pepper, corn, cherry tomatoes, green onions, coriander and celery in a large mixing bowl. In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, salt, cumin, sugar and pepper.

Add cooled quinoa to vegetables and toss with vinaigrette to combine. Spoon salad into suitable storage containers and refrigerate. Makes about six cups (1.5 L).

Fruited Quinoa Salad

A yummy mixture of sweet, sour, and spicy, this salad makes a welcome addition to lunch or dinner. It keeps well covered and refrigerated for up to three days.

To toast walnuts, arrange in single layer on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F ( 180°C) for 10 minutes or until fragrant and pale brown.

1 cup (250 mL) quinoa
2 cups (500 mL) water
1 bay leaf
1 cup (250 mL) dried apricots, cut into dice
1/2 cup (125 mL) each, red and yellow peppers, diced
1/2 cup (125 ml) walnuts or almonds, toasted
1 stalk of celery diced
1/4 cup (50 mL) cilantro or parsley chopped

Curry Vinaigrette
1/4 cup (50 mL) each, cider vinegar and apple juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) each, curry powder, grated fresh ginger root and brown sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

Rinse and drain quinoa in several changes of water. Add quinoa to saucepan with water and bay leaf. Cover and cook over medium high heat 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes. Cool and discard bay leaf. In a medium bowl, stir together apricots, red and yellow peppers, walnuts, celery and cilantro. In food processor combine cider vinegar, apple juice, oil, curry powder, ginger, brown sugar, salt and pepper until well blended. Add cooled quinoa to vegetables and toss with curry dressing. Spoon salad into suitable containers and refrigerate. Makes about five cups (1.25 L).

Beet and Dill Pâté

My sister made this beet spread for me this past summer with flavourful results. For a dramatic presentation, serve in a white bowl, surrounded with thickly sliced cucumbers for dipping or a basket of coarse grained bread if you prefer.

1 can (19 oz /540 mL) white navy beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups (375 mL) cooked beets (you can cook your own or use canned)
1/2 cup (250 mL) toasted walnuts
1/4 cup (50 mL) each, fresh dill leaves and sweet onion
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp (25 mL) each, red wine vinegar and olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

In a food processor, blend navy beans, cooked beets, walnuts, dill leaves, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Spoon into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate for up to three days. Makes about four cups (1 L).


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  –

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