Friday, August 10, 2012

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Spinach & Garbanzo Beans

Have you tried quinoa yet?  I have a confession to make.  I've bought quinoa several times over the years with all good intentions of making it....and there it sat in the pantry until eventually it was donated to a local food bank.  It sounded delicious...and healthy even, but it intimidated the hell out of me.  Me!  Miss I'll-Try-Just-About-Anything-Just-About-Anytime!  

My daughter, Julie, fell in love with quinoa months ago and now uses it regularly, making up her own recipes as she goes along.  Kimber, too, has been making salads with it. Mom was being left in the dust of the quinoa train and I simply couldn't have that, could I?
One of the things that intimidated me was I'd heard it could be bitter if it wasn't rinsed well enough.  During a recent shopping trip to Whole Foods, what did I spy on the shelves?  Hello PRE-RINSED quinoa!  Okay, that decided it, I had no more excuses. That adorable blue package went directly into my cart.  It didn't sit on my pantry shelf either.  I made a colorful and absolutely delectable Mediterranean-inspired salad with yellow grape tomatoes, fresh basil and spinach, garbanzo beans and a lemony olive oil vinaigrette. Mark and I both loved it!  
You know that old adage, "pretty is as pretty does" don't you?  Quinoa does! Quinoa grains are dainty and pretty with a distinctive  "curl" that gives a delicate, lacy effect to the dish. Just as a grain of salt isn't actually grain, quinoa isn't grain either, but seed. Get's related to beets and spinach. Well, no wonder it's so good for you! Like other seeds or beans, the protein content in quinoa is very high...and the fiber and other nutrients, including calcium, in quinoa ain't too shabby either. Quinoa is a really good choice for vegetarians and vegans trying to maximize protein opportunities in their diets! It's gluten-free, know that makes me happy!
Enough with the facts...let's get to the's the recipe:

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad 
with Spinach & Garbanzo Beans

  • 1 cup quinoa, buy the pre-rinsed kind!
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 36 cherry or grape tomatoes (red, yellow, both or whatever color(s) strike your fancy at the store or farmers market), halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly & cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach (that's a 5 ounce bag) torn into pieces
  • 16 ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 sprigs basil, fresh, remove leaves and julienne
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 large lemons, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium sized saucepan, combine the quinoa, water & salt & bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir and let cool.

When the quinoa is cool, add the tomatoes through the oregano and give it a good mix.  Set aside.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil salt & pepper until the vinaigrette is emulsified.  Pour the vinaigrette over the quinoa mixture and transfer to a serving bowl.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

NOTE:  This is just as good served warmed, so don't limit it to warm weather months.  Heat it up and serve it as a side dish to grilled meats or chicken when it's chilly outside.  Or just serve it by's really high in protein!

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