Thanks to the super fun class I taught at The Riveter last week and the Healthy Lunch Challenge that we did after that, I've been especially preoccupied with ideas for meals that are easy to make and take to work. I've been trying to come up with ideas that are good for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and quinoa is something that totally fits the bill. Quinoa (keen-wah) is actually a seed that kind of acts and tastes like a grain. It's considered to be a superfood and “complete” protein source, which means that it provides all the essential amino acids. And it tastes good!
My friend Lisa C. turned me on to this delicious quinoa salad that's fast becoming a staple at my house. She makes it a little differently each time depending on what's in her garden and in her fridge. Her rule of thumb is to use a mix of colors and textures with "a punch of sweet and a little bit of crunch." After cooking the quinoa in veggie or chicken broth she'll add things like small cubed/steamed beets, slivers of kale, diced cucumber and bell pepper along with currants or golden raisins and then pistachios, almond slices or toasted pine nuts. You can also add feta or goat cheese or some grilled chicken to make it even heartier. The final ingredient is a whole mess of finely chopped herbs like flat leaf parsley or mint or dill. Don't be afraid to experiment using whatever is available to you. This salad is really versatile!
Here's what I came up with last week. It's great to bring to a party or potluck and it's perfect to have in the fridge for lunches during the week, or any time.
Quinoa Salad with Veggies and Feta cheese
· 4-6 cups of cooked quinoa
· 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
· 1 large or 2 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped, white part only
· 2 cloves of garlic, minced
· 1 medium bunch asparagus cut into 1/4 inch pieces
· 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
· 1/2 cup yellow raisins
· 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
· 1/2 cup crumbled sheep's milk feta cheese
· 1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped fine
· salt and pepper to taste
1. Rinse 2 cups of quinoa and cook according to package directions (I cooked mine in vegetable broth instead of water).
2. Put olive oil into a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (about 1-2 minutes) add the leek or onion and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add asparagus and sauté for another 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and turn off the heat.
3. Put cooked quinoa into a large bowl, add the vegetables and the raisins and allow everything to come to room temp.
4. Add almonds, feta, parsley, salt and pepper and combine well.