A Vibrant Quinoa Salad for a Dark Winter’s Day

Some days there is nothing more refreshing and satisfying than having a hearty salad as a meal.  A salad can be extremely handy too, when it is built to last so that it can reappear the next day as our lunch.  That is the sort of meal I had in mind today.  The salad I made was loosely based on a recipe for a Wheatberry Salad that I read about on Macheesmo, a blog I like to visit.  I’ve been trying to follow more recipes because I want well-developed flavors and predictable results when I cook.  Even though I’m trying to follow recipes, I still have to strike a balance.  I am not one to plan meals in advance, and I don’t like to run to the store when I decide to make something.  I began by gathering ingredients.

In my salad, I subbed Quinoa for Wheatberry.  I’ve glanced at a bag of Wheatberry in the grocery store, but haven’t purchased that grain so far.  I am still working on integrating Quinoa into my regular cooking routine.  I also subbed fresh spinach for kale, and half a block of drained and crumbled tofu for feta cheese.  We’ve been working our way through a bag of organic parsnips from the Farmer’s Market that we bought at Thanksgiving, so I decided to add a few.  I started cooking 1 1/2 cup of quinoa in an equal amount of water, and while the quinoa cooked, I chopped the vegetables into small, uniform chunks.  They say you eat with your eyes first; the vibrant rainbow of crunchy vegetables chopped for this salad was a visual feast.

The salad is dressed with the juice of a lemon, the lemon’s zest, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  It gives the salad a lot of kick with zero added fat.  Healthy!!  The lemon juice has the added benefit of keeping the avocado from turning brown.  If I make this again, I will cut back on the lemon zest a little bit.  The zest of a lemon is pretty punchy, especially when you eliminate a creamy dairy component which was included in the original recipe.

Did we notice the substitutions I made to the original recipe?  A little.  Crumbled tofu has a similar texture to feta cheese, but it lacks the tang.  There is also a certain creaminess that feta would add, which would also probably help balance the pungent citrus in the salad.  Neither of us are huge fans of feta, and so it was a fair swap to make, and healthy too.   I am all for subbing spinach for the kale called for in the original recipe.  I have yet to delve into kale, and I love how easy it is to add a big bunch of fresh spinach to almost anything you are cooking and allow it to steam in just a few minutes.  We both enjoyed the salad with a dash of Habenero Chili hot sauce that we brought back from Mexico.

This salad was a success for several reasons.  It contained an antioxidant rainbow of healthy vegetables.  It also contained the healthy fat found in avocado.  The texture was the best part of the salad; it had crunchy carrots, celery, onions, parsnips, peppers which balanced well with the creamy avocado, supple quinoa, tofu and tender steamed spinach.  There was plenty of kicky flavour without any regret with the spicy-citrus dressing.  It was also a win from a vegetarian-protein perspective since it contained both tofu and chickpeas. All in all, it was a light, uplifting, healthy and hearty entrée salad that hit all of the important notes that it needed to pick us up on a grey day in January.  Yes!!

Bjorn said the salad was tastier than he expected, and we both ate it again the next day.  For me, it was both breakfast and lunch.  I need to make a crunchy, kicky, creamy, low-fat, high flavor, protein-rich salad more often.

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