As a vegetarian (most of the time, I enjoy a fish dish every now and again), I often have to get quite creative with my culinary pursuits; most notably when it comes to my protein intake. With the absence of meat proteins in my diet, I have to turn to alternative sources. One such option that I have come to love is Quinoa(pronounced keen-wah). I like to call it “the little grain that could” for though it looks like a distant cousin of cous cous or short-grained rice, offering satiation as a hearty carb, it goes one step further and provides as much as nine grams of protein per half cup serving! Needless to say it has become a mainstay in my diet. And while I realize that not everyone subscribes to a meat-free lifestyle and therefore, may not see the need to deviate from their poultry, pork and red meat-eating ways, I believe quinoa to be an equal opportunist, and given the opportunity, it can can be easily prepared to please the palettes of even the most staunch carnivores. All it takes is a little creativity and some simple recipes.
Lucky for me, the blogosphere has become one of the best resources for new dishes. And on a recent perusing of some of my favorite sites, I found two quinoa-inspired recipes whose ingredients sounded too delicious to pass up! In the past month I have made both of these dishes and shared them with meat-eating friends. Consensus? They liked them, they liked them! Another “W” for the vegetarian team, I’ll make converts out of those meat-lovers, yet.
This first recipe is perfect for a gal (0r guy) on the go. It can be prepared in advance and in bulk so it’s not only the perfect dish for social functions but can be divided into tupperware and chilled for easy go-to meals during the week. For an extra protein-punch (for those non-vegetarian chefs), top this salad with grilled chicken or shrimp!
Lemon Quinoa Cilantro Chickpea Salad
1/2 cup dry quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
2 avocados, diced
2 cups spinach
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup onion
2 small cloves of garlic
For the Dressing:
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar (I substituted honey)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Dash of salt and pepper
1. Make quinoa according to package instructions, replacing water with vegetable broth.
2. In a food processor, add your spinach and cilantro, process the greens until they are finely diced. You can do this by hand as well if you don’t have a food processor.
3. Add the greens to a bowl and set aside. Next, take your onion, garlic and finely dice those, and add them to the greens mixture. Add your chickpeas and stir until everything is combined and coated. If the quinoa is cooled, you can add it to the chickpea mixture next.
4. Make your dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Pour over salad, and mix until combined. Add in tomatoes and avocado and mix. Set in fridge for about 10-15 minutes before serving so that the flavors set.