I dubbed this salad my ‘bird food’ salad. It has 6 different seeds (not counting the peas which are technically seeds too), and a few slightly cooked green veggies, tossed together in a light lemony garlic vinaigrette. It’s delicious and refreshing and super nutritious. But above all this salad is about texture and crunch. Every single ingredient adds a new textural dimension – the tiny popping seeds, the crisp asparagus and zucchini, the spherical feel of the tender peas in your mouth.
The star of this recipe, and the base for the salad, is one little known ancient seed – kaniwa. It sounds and looks similar to quinoa. In fact, the first time I saw kaniwa at the bulk section of my local Sprouts store, I thought it was a variety of tiny red quinoa, and they misspelled the name. It’s dark reddish brown in color, and the size of poppy seeds. Quinoa and kaniwa are actually closely related, both originating from South America, where they’ve been a staple for thousands of years.
The nutrition profile of kaniwa closely resembles that of quinoa, and they are both gluten free. Kaniwa is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, and 7 g of protein per half-cup serving. It’s also high in antioxidants and minerals, especially iron, phosphorus and calcium.
What’s little known, however, is that its protein content is higher than that of quinoa, and it has 4 times more iron than quinoa, which makes it a good candidate for becoming the next super-star food. But due to its recent discovery by the Western world, it hasn’t yet been in the spot light, as quinoa, and it’s not so readily available in supermarkets. You might find it in Sprouts, or Wholefoods, sometimes under the name of ‘baby quinoa’, and if that doesn’t work, you can always buy kaniwa online.
When cooked, kaniwa remains small, and does not puff up like quinoa. It’s so tiny in fact, that it easily gets stuck between your teeth 😉 You cook it in the same manner as quinoa – 2:1 liquid to solid ratio. It doesn’t have a pronounced flavor so it can serve as a blank canvas for any soup, stew, salad, pancakes, etc.
In this salad, I threw some delicate fresh spring veggies – peas, and asparagus both slightly blanched to retain their crispiness and fresh taste, raw zucchini which adds extra crunch, as well as some avocado for creaminess. Tossed together with a handful of pepitas, sunflower seeds, chia, black sesame, and poppy seeds, and dressed in lemon-garlic-dill vinaigrette, it becomes a deliciously filling lunch.
The salad holds beautifully for a couple of days. My only advise will be, to add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds just before you serve it, if you think you might have leftovers for the next day.
Have you tried cooking with kaniwa? What is your favorite recipe? I think I will try to add it to pancake batter, or homemade granola next.
- 1 cup asparagus, blanched and cut in small pieces
- ½ cup fresh peas
- 1 cup raw zucchini, diced
- 1 avocado
- 2 handfuls of arugula (or other greens)
- ¼ cup kaniwa,
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 tbs chia seeds
- 3 tbs roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 3 tbs roasted salted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tsp poppy seeds (optional)
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup chopped chives
- ¼ cup chopped dill
- Place kaniwa, and water in a pot, with a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the asparagus, and peas. Boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat, drain and cut into small pieces.
- In a bowl, mix the kaniwa seeds, chopped zucchini, asparagus and peas. Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds (if using).
- Chop the fresh dill and chives and add to the bowl.
- Combine the lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic and pour over the salad. Add a few pinches of salt. Mix well.
- Garnish the salad with sliced avocado, and serve over a bed of arugula, or other greens.