Meatless Monday – Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas

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Quinoa is still the queen of the ancient grain world, just don’t tell freekah or farro.  Other grains try but they can’t steal the crown, perhaps because quinoa is so versatile and packed with nutrients. It is also the perfect backdrop for putting colorful veggies on display.  This yummy salad with quinoa, artichokes, olives, cherry tomatoes and chickpeas with fresh herbs tossed in a light lemony dressing is deceptively hearty and filled with protein. I love this combination of flavors.  The salty kalamata olives combined with the earthy chickpeas, lemony artichoke hearts and sweet tomatoes are lovely together, making a pretty and delicious meal. It got rave reviews last night from my husband, but then again, with these ingredients it’s pretty hard not to like.   If you are looking for an easy-to-assemble-in-less-than-half-an-hour-dish, this is it!  Since it is served slightly warm or at room temperature, this salad makes the perfect buffet or potluck dish.  Make it  ahead and let it sit until you’re ready-no last minute reheating required. In fact it only gets better the longer it sits and marinates, allowing the flavors to develop. This would also be a great use for leftover quinoa.  Just toss together with the veggies and herbs. Done!

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Why should you eat more quinoa?  Quinoa is known for being  great source of protein,  but it’s not only the amount, it’s the type of protein. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a ‘complete protein’, which is rarely found in plant foods, though common in meats. Amino acids are considered ‘essential’ if our bodies can’t produce them and we can only get them through our diets. My husband asked me how our livestock animals get enough protein when they only eat grass or grains.  I did not know the answer so I did what everyone does today, I googled it. Herbivores, animals that get all of their nutrition from grass and other plants, have no problem getting enough protein in their diet. Unlike humans, herbivores are capable of digesting plant cells and getting to the nutrients locked inside, like protein. So there you have it.  Cows and other ruminants who spend their day chewing their cud have superior digestive systems. But I digress, back to the star of today.  Quinoa also offers a good dose of fiber, iron and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories, gluten-free and cruelty-free making it a great dietary choice for everyone.

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TIPS:  This is a vegan salad, however, crumbling feta on top would be a delicious addition for cheese lovers.  I did not have any or I may have been tempted to add a sprinkle or two.  Don’t forget to rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the bitter saponin, a naturally occurring substance that coats quinoa to protect it from predators. Just use a colander with a fine mesh or you will lose some of your quinoa down the drain.  Some quinoa is pre-rinsed so check the label. Very important! Zest your lemon before cutting it in half.  Once they are cut, they are almost impossible to zest. I’ve tried…

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QUINOA SALAD WITH ARTICHOKES, OLIVES AND CHICKPEAS

1 cup quinoa (plain or tri-color)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 16 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or julienned (plus more for garnish)

Dressing (Note:  This is a lightly dressed salad.  If you like a lot of dressing, double the recipe):

1/4 cup olive oil
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper, to taste

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  • Rinse quinoa and cook according to package instructions. Then transfer cooked quinoa to a large serving bowl and fluff with a fork to remove any lumps.

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  • Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas ,olives, and basil.

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  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with more basil, if desired. Serve room temperature.

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Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 cup quinoa (plain or tri-color)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 16 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or julienned (plus more for garnish)

Dressing (Note:  This is a lightly dressed salad.  If you like a lot of dressing, double the recipe):

1/4 cup olive oil
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Make quinoa according to package instructions. Then transfer cooked quinoa to a large serving bowl and stir to remove any lumps.
  • Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas ,olives, and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with more basil, if desired.
  • Serve room temperature.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Black Bean Quinoa Salad

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Tired of green salad?  This flavor filled quinoa salad with mango and avocado topped with an orange cumin vinaigrette is my new favorite!  I promise you won’t be bored. It’s a little bit spicy from the jalapenos, a little bit sweet from the mango, the black beans add a rich salty flavor and fresh avocado, purple onion, bell pepper and cilantro make it salad worthy.  Yum!

Quinoa is the perfect backdrop for these beautiful flavors.  It also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse, high in protein, low in fat, gluten free and loaded with lovely vitamins and minerals (but you don’t have to tell your family that).  What I didn’t know is that Mango is also a superfood, providing over 20 vitamins and minerals in every delicious bite. ( This puts a whole new light on my recipe for Mango Margaritas!)  Black beans add another protein and nutrient boost and their high fiber content helps keep your tummy full. Then there is the Avocado, which we now know is a good fat that is highly nutritious.   The best part of this salad though, is how great it tastes!  I can’t wait to have it again for lunch…

This is the perfect dish to throw together for an easy dinner or bring to a potluck, especially if you have leftover quinoa on hand (or you make it ahead), then it’s only about ten minutes of chopping, mixing and you’re done!  This salad can be made a day ahead, without the avocado.  Bring to room temperature then gently toss in the avocado, if using, before serving.

TIP:  You can buy mango pre-cut but it’s very easy to do it yourself (and less expensive) if you know the right technique.  How to cut a Mango

VARIATIONS:  If you don’t have, or like, mango, you can substitute orange or nectarine segments (or even canned or frozen corn).  Use a combination of yellow, orange, red and green bell peppers for lots of color.  This recipe is only mildly spicy using one red jalapeno pepper so double the amount of jalapeno peppers and add a bit more cumin if you like it hot.

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad

Black Bean Quinoa with Cumin Orange Vinaigrette

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup quinoa
1 cup mango, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red or green jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
 
 vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

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  • Rinse quinoa to remove bitterness and cook according to package instructions; set aside and let cool.
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, cumin and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mango, bell pepper, jalapeno, black beans, avocado, onion and cilantro. Pour the vinaigrette on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.
  • If you aren’t serving immediately, place the avocado pit on top of the salad to keep the avocado from turning brown, or add the avocado right before serving .  Serve at room temperature.

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