Forcing the Season: Quinoa and Vegetable Salad

I’m not sure what it’s been like in your neck of the woods weather-wise, but here in Vermont it was an exceptionally chilly March. Temps this past weekend were more like the middle of the month more than the end of the month. Teens during the day, below zero at night, the only saving grace is it has been really sunny during the day. Wanting to shed my usual winter fare of heavy chilis, soups, and dinners, I decided to create a springtime salad dish one evening in an effort to force the season. And when I heard the forecast of a winter storm approaching, I decided there was no time like the present!

Cucumbers, tomatoes, and chick peas are my usual fare for grain salads, but I thought I would put a tabbouleh slant to things by adding some sad-looking parsley in the vegetable bin, plus some chives. Chives are my favorite alliums, and since my own chives are hidden under a pile of snow, it will be a few weeks before I can snip some. The parsley is optional; if you don’t have it on hand, leaving it out won’t ruin the recipe. Fresh mint would be delightful substitute, but only if you have it on hand.

I decided to buy red quinoa instead of the “regular” (what color would you call that, beige?) and either can be used in this recipe. I like it when I cook it in chicken broth, as it adds a lot of flavor, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used water.

Perhaps the recipe worked; the winter storm that was to arrive ended up being just rain and the snow is slowly melting. I’ve heard the chirp of the red-winged blackbird and I can see grass outside my window—it’s not yet green, but it will be very soon!

quinoa salad

Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
Try your own version with different salad vegetables. Cooked chicken could be a wonderful substitute for the chickpeas—or an addition! For a little extra zing, top with some more fresh lemon!

2 cups of water
1 cup of quinoa
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced horizontal, seeded and chopped into half moons
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup parsley, chopped (optional)
The juice from one lemon (or more)
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce heat. Cook until the quinoa is done cooking (30 minutes, give or take) and all the liquid is dissolved. Let it cool.

2. Add the cooled quinoa to a mixing bowl, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Add the lemon juice, chives, and feta. Top with additional lemon juice if desired. Serve over a bed of lettuce or on its own!

Farmer’s Market Vegetable Soup

"Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."

“Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”

It’s been ages since I’ve brought you, and even made, a soup. But the weather is turning to fall and getting cooler, so last weekend it was time to pull out my pot and make a delicious soup of just local vegetables!

Zucchini and summer squash are still plentiful this time of year as are delicious tomatoes. This was one of those chop, add, and stir soups. It doesn’t take a lot of time and is very healthy–and gluten-free for those readers who need it to be!

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I just diced my tomatoes and added to the pot, but doing this, you’ll sometimes get some tomato skin in the soup. I don’t mind that, but if you want to remove the skins before adding them to the soup, just take a sauce pan, fill it with water, and bring it to a boil. With a paring knife, cut out the core and make an “X” on the bottom of the tomato. Add the tomato to the boiling water for less than a minute. Remove it  from the water with a slotted spoon and set on a plate. Take your paring knife and the skins should just slide off. If you want to freeze fresh tomatoes, this is the method to use!

I added a little bit of quinoa to my soup and I thought if want it more on the heartier side, beans and/or leftover chicken would be great additions. While I only used one cup of water because the squash and tomatoes lent some additional liquid, add extra if you need it; I prefer my soups to be less on the “brothy” side.

DSCN0524Farmer’s Market Vegetable Soup with Quinoa
This soup is incredibly versatile; you can use all zucchini or all summer squash if that’s what you have on hand. If you don’t have kale, use spinach or Swiss chard, or leave it out. This made four big servings for lunch.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 zucchini, diced
1 summer squash, diced
1 large tomato or 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup of water or chicken broth
4-5 kale or Swiss chard leaves, chopped (or substitute a cup or two of chopped spinach)
½ cup of quinoa (or beans or chicken or all three, if you prefer)
Parmesan or Romano cheese for sprinkling on top (optional)

1. In a soup pot, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft.

2. Add the zucchini, summer squash, and tomato. Stir and cook. Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer.  Add the kale or spinach leaves. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes on low heat. If needed, add more liquid.

3.  Stir in the quinoa.

4. Add the cheese right before serving, if using.

Spring Cleaning #3: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Hello, dear readers! This is the easiest of recipes, and is great if you want a shot of summer in the middle of the winter. I don’t even know if I can call it a recipe, basically put everything together in a bowl and mix! Cooking the quinoa is what takes the longest, once that’s cooked throw some beans, shallots, corn, spices, and lime in a bowl and you’re ready! I cooked the quinoa in the morning and created this when I got home from work one evening. In five minutes, dinner was served! I served it over greens as a vegetarian dinner, but it would make a nice side salad with a piece of chicken or pork, too.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup or so, frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup or so, frozen edamame, thawed
2 tablespoons minced shallots or sliced scallions
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
1 teaspoon cumin, coriander, or a combination of the two

1. Bring two cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup quinoa and gently cook for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. If the quinoa is done cooking and there is extra water, be sure to drain it.
2. In a mixing bowl, add quinoa, black beans, corn, shallots or scallions. Mix. Add lime juice to taste and spices. Mix and serve.