Monday, February 18, 2013

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Our family gathers once a quarter to celebrate birthdays in the extended family. We always do a potluck and I'm usually scrambling the day of to think of something awesome to take. This recipe totally happened by accident. I had a bunch of stuff in the fridge that needed to be used and I wasn't sure how this potpourri salad would turn out, but it rocked. This is a great salad because you can throw whatever fresh veg you have in your fridge and add it. Or you can customize it with your own favorite veg.

This salad is light, fresh and the lemon adds a wonderful brightness. It's very filling, so you can serve as a side dish or add more veggie to make a main dish. I love basil pesto and the lemon was a great compliment to it. I also used prepared basil pesto. My favorite place to buy it is in the refrigerated section at Costco or Sam's Club. It's really yummy and cheaper than making it yourself  if you don't grow your own basil. I  also served this chilled, but it would be delicious also served warm. I also love incorporating chia seeds into my salads. They look like little poppy seeds and they had a great crunch. Not to mention that they are packed full of protein and vitamins. They are so good for you. If you haven't tried fresh goat cheese, you are missing out. The texture is similar to cream cheese, but a little more crumbly like feta cheese. It's also tangy like cream cheese. I love using goat cheese because it's very flavorful and doesn't have as much fat as most other cheeses. Give it a try--I'm sure you'll enjoy it. I also buy goat cheese at Costco.

Here's what you need:

-2 C quinoa
-4 C water or vegetable broth
-1.5 C fresh sugar snap peas, coarsely broken into pieces
- (1) 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
-1/2 C kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
-3 green onions, sliced
-1/2 C dried cranberries
-1/2 C raw almonds, whole
-2 handful of fresh spinach leaves, separated
-1/4 C fresh parsley, finely chopped
-1 tsp. chia seeds, optional
-1/4 C goat cheese, crumbled (about 2-3 oz.)
-salt to taste


-1/2 C prepared basil pesto
-juice of 1 medium lemon
-2 TBS balsamic vinegar


-5 slices of lemon
-a few pieces of parsley

1. In a medium sauce pan take quinoa and water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered for 15 min or until majority of liquid is gone. Remove from heat, add one handful of spinach and cover pan with lid. Fluff with fork after 5 minutes and stir in wilted spinach. Remove lid and set aside.

2. While quinoa is cooking, add peas, chickpeas, olives, cranberries, parsley and almonds to a large mixing bowl. Toss to mix.

3. In a separate bowl combine pesto, lemon juice and vinegar. Stir until well incorporated.

4. After quinoa is mainly cooled to room temp, add it to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Pour dressing over top and mix to ensure the dressing is well incorporated. Taste salad and add salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

5. Once ready to serve, take remaining handful of spinach and spread over serving platter. Pile quinoa on top of spinach, sprinkle with chia seeds and crumbled goat cheese. Add a few pieces of parsley and add lemon slices to garnish.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Here's the printable recipe.

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