I've been thinking about posting this since Valentine's Day-- you know, because it's pink...but then, yea, it's pink and how ridiculous to match your food to Hallmark, right? Pink or not, it's a bright mix of flavors headlined by an ingredient I evangelize to any unfortunate soul who happens to wonder about my favorite foods. Quinoa. Is it a grain? Is it a seed? Is it a cereal? It's about time I gave a little attention here to this super-hero pseudocereal that is more closely related to spinach, swiss chard, and beets than to rice or wheat berries. I love the taste and versatility of quinoa, but it's prized at Casa Hungry Burro for it's nutritional profile. Rare to this type of mouth-feel foods (tasty starchy side dishes like rice), it is high in complete protein containing a balanced set of essential amino acids.
Quinoa comes in a variety of colors that as far as I know don't affect its nutritional profile but do have a crunchiness impact. I usually prefer the red or black quinoa because it cooks to a crunchier texture and I happen to like that. (NYCers: you can find quinoa in all its colors at Kalustyan's.) However, in this recipe I went with white quinoa because I was feeling very girly and wanted it pretty in pink. The beets bleed as if with the most intensely broken hearts, imparting a delightfully playful tint to the dish. The green apple adds a bit of tart, the hazelnuts a bit of earth, and the herbs a bit of spring.