About four times a year I make the trek home to Minnesota. I have a love-hate relationship with the drive. On one hand is much easier to pack up the dog to drive than it is to fly. There was nothing worse than finding my generally unflappable dog shaking inside his kennel because he’d been left by the airline personnel at baggage claim and left unattended. It was one of those moments when I felt I had failed as a pet parent and why I was thrilled when just a few short months later I moved to a city within driving distance of my parents.
What I dislike about the drive is that at 7 hours, on average, it’s long past the point of being an enjoyable weekend drive. Sure, I’m optimistic for the first four hours, singing off-key to my favorite Pandora stations or catching up on NPR. But the last three can be brutal. I’m sick of staring out my window at cornfields and dreary gas stations. My back generally aches just a bit.
The saving grace is that not far off the route is one of my absolute favorite shops – Weaver’s Country Store. They repackage all kinds of fantastic bulk ingredients from dry beans to flours to whole grains. It’s because of them that I have more than 10 different shades of sanding sugar. I’ve been known to go in and load up on one of everything, even if it’s not something I’ve cooked with before, like millet. Last time I went I found myself in possession of a small bag, among many, many other things, and without absolutely any plan of how to use it. I figured, like most ingredients, I’d just wing it. But I realized after the fact that there are not many millet recipes on the internet. So I found myself forgetting about it, allowing it to get pushed to the back of the pantry.
This week it finally got put to good use. I had plans for a quinoa salad, but realized as I was measuring out my ingredients that I didn’t have enough quinoa. I wasn’t about to head out of the store since I’d already started the process of cooking. With a little research I found that the cooking methods for quinoa and millet were relatively similar so I combined them both into this recipe. I think the results speak for themselves. Texturally they play well together, quinoa a little softer and millet a bit firmer and more substantial.
And the other ingredients in this recipe aren’t half bad themselves. The Thai-inspired dressing is crisp and tangy, while remaining low in calories and fat. I love how the grains absorb all the flavor. And the tofu, I could probably write a whole post just on that alone. It has a nice chewy crust on the outside and a tender inside that’s a perfect replacement for fried tofu. All in all, this salad is picnic perfect.
Salad recipe adapted from Raising the Salad Bar and tofu method adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
-1 package firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes and patted with a paper towel to remove as much surface moisture as possible
-2 tablespoons canola oil
-2/3 cup quinoa
-1/3 cup millet
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into very thin strips
-1 carrot, peeled, and shredded or julienned
-1 small cucumber, seeded, and chopped
-1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
-1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1/4 cup chopped salted, roasted peanuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the tofu cubes with the oil and distribute evenly on the baking sheet. Bake undisturbed for about an hour. You’re looking for the tofu to shrink significantly and to be golden. Set aside to cool.
Rinse quinoa by putting it in a bowl and swirling it around in the water, drain in a very fine mesh strainer, and repeat a few more times, making sure the water is clear. Add quinoa, millet, salt and 1 1/2 cups water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
In a large serving bowl, combine the quinoa, red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, and sugar snap peas and mix well.
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the fish sauce and red pepper flakes. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. Gently mix in the mint and cilantro and sprinkle peanuts on top. This salad can be prepared ahead but if so, store salad, dressing, herbs and peanuts separately and toss right before serving.