Are you still following through on that New Year’s resolution? You know the one you made, promising yourself that you’ll eat healthier (More fiber? More veggies? Less meat?) in 2010? If it has been a bit of a struggle, or even if you’re still on board, but you’re sick and tired of the lettuce-based salads, smoothies, and the like, check out quinoa.
Quinoa is a tiny seed that acts like a grain. But it’s more than just another grain. Quinoa is packed with healthy fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. It’s nutty in flavor, and will fill you up, leaving you satisfied. It’s gluten-free, so for those of us that have to stay away from gluten, this seed makes a perfect stand-in for recipes that call for bulgur or couscous. I personally love it – it cooks up in 15 minutes, and absorbs flavors and dressings without getting mushy, making it perfect for a salad such as this.
What’s wonderful about this salad? You can throw in pretty much anything you want. Really. I stood in my kitchen last night, deciding what easy-to-make, easy-on-the-tummy meal I wanted to throw together. This salad literally originated from leftovers and pantry staples. Substitutions are simple – I can imagine dried cranberries in place of the currants and raisins, almonds or pine nuts in place of the walnuts, or fresh spinach, kale, or chard in place of the frozen spinach used here. Really, it’s all about you, and choosing a mixture of ingredients that will satisfy, and keep you on that road to eating healthier.
Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Raisins, and Walnuts
1 T olive oil
2 T minced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c quinoa, rinsed (rinsing is to remove the bitterness from the seeds)
1 ½ T golden raisins
1 ½ T dried currants
1 2/3 c water
1 c frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
¼ c toasted chopped walnuts
2 T chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T good quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3 oz feta or goat cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil to medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add the quinoa and continue to sauté for another minute or so. Add the raisins, currants and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until water is nearly absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cover again and let cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, walnuts, and parsley. Season generously to taste. Drizzle olive oil over and stir in. Serve chilled or at room temperature, topped with a bit of feta.