By Lori Rodgers –
Springtime is upon us and it’s a perfect time to enjoy some tasty salads. I have so many favorites it was difficult to choose just three. I decided upon a selection of savory, crunchy and fruity.
First up is a longtime staple for my family, savory quinoa salad. If you are not familiar with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), this is a perfect introduction. An ancient super grain with a multitude of health benefits, it is easy to cook and very tasty. Centuries ago the Incas used quinoa as one of their main food sources, reportedly believing it increased their warriors’ stamina. High in protein and fiber, quinoa is a friend to those of us adhering to a low a carb eating plan!
Quintessential Quinoa Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1 cucumber, chopped
I red bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
*1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup feta cheese crumbled
Balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- Rinse the uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for at least 30 seconds. Place the quinoa, water, and salt if you choose to use it in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Resist the urge to stir…it will make your quinoa mushy.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes.
- Scoop the slightly cooled grains into a large mixing or serving bowl and fluff with a fork.
- Add the chopped veggies, garbanzo beans and feta and stir gently to combine.
- Next stir in the freshly prepared balsamic vinaigrette and toss lightly to evenly distribute the dressing.
The salad will be slightly warm and it’s delicious that way. I always enjoy a bowl of the freshly prepared warm quinoa and refrigerate the leftovers. The flavors will meld and the cold salad is even yummier the next day.
Servings and Variations
As a rule of thumb, one cup uncooked quinoa yields three cups when cooked. You can use broth instead of water for a variation or half water half broth. The salad will keep refrigerated for 4-5 days but it never lasts that long at my house! You can experiment with combinations of your favorite veggies, including spinach or kale. If you add fresh greens be sure to eat the salad within a day or two.
½ cup cold pressed olive oil (I prefer organic)
½ cup balsamic vinegar (use the good stuff from Modena or Reggio!)
1 teaspoon French Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar (you can substitute honey of you don’t have agave)
I clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a glass jar with and lid and shake well until thoroughly combined. I use about one half to two thirds of the dressing on the salad. It’s up to you! Keep the jar with the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for up to one week.
*Unusual Food Tip
When you drain the garbanzo beans, don’t throw away the liquid! Both of my teenagers have adopted a Vegan lifestyle. As a result, I have learned some very interesting ways to cook without dairy, eggs, etc. Recently I wanted to make a cake for my daughter’s birthday. The cake was not a big challenge but I was worried about the frosting. In addition to being vegan, she also limits her sugar intake.
I researched vegan websites and discovered a technique involving garbanzo bean brine that has to be experienced to believe. First, you need a stand mixer. Pour the liquid from the canned beans into the mixing bowl, turn the mixer on medium speed and set a timer for 9 minutes. At about 8 minutes you will notice the frothy mixture begin its transformation. At exactly 9 minutes it will turn into a fluffy white cloud with glossy peaks that resembles marshmallow creme. I added stevia, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder. Amazingly enough I had delicious chocolate frosting. I mean it really tasted good. Almost like the real thing. Just try not to think about the garbanzos!
This concoction has a multitude of iterations. Essentially it is an egg substitute so it is handy for people with egg sensitivity or allergies as well as those who choose not to incorporate animal products into their diets. We used it on our sweet potato soufflé at Thanksgiving. It can be used unsweetened to thicken casseroles or baked goods. Start whipping up some brine today and let me know what you do with your fluff!