Spring Harvest Quinoa Salad

Okay, I know it’s not spring. It’s not even close to spring. But nonetheless, I ended up creating a quintessential spring salad last month with a smattering of veggies I impulsively bought at the store. I blame imported ingredients. How can you resist strawberries in October when they are on sale?? Truthfully though, it wasn’t the strawberries that triggered this salad. It started with fava beans. I experimented with them over the summer in this Beer-Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas, but I hadn’t created my own recipe with them before. Now that I felt familiar with their taste & texture, I was ready to take on the challenge, so when I saw them at the store I had to get them. Sitting nearby were some fabulous looking leeks, so I scooped those up as well. Once I got on the spring train, apparently I couldn’t get off.

Fava beans are very hearty and satisfying. You buy them in a huge pod, and break down the pod to obtain the pretty looking beans. The beans themselves look a lot like lima beans, but once you blanch them and slip them out of their white translucent skin, they have a gorgeous bright green color and toothsome mouth feel. I thought they would add heft and beautiful color to a quinoa salad (one of my favorite ‘grains’ of all time). Quinoa doesn’t have a strong taste on it’s own, so it gives you a pretty blank canvas to work with.

After deciding on fava beans and leeks, I flurried about the store, grabbing things that spoke to me at the time. I ended up with strawberries, pistachios, and some goat cheese. I also wanted mint, but they were out, so I bought parsley, which ended up working perfectly. I got home and told Kelly what I was making and received a skeptical look… but I knew the flavors would work in the end.

After my prepping my favas and quinoa, I decided to saute the leeks with a bit of garlic to mellow out their flavor and impart a sweet oniony flavor to the salad. Then I created a slightly sweet vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, and honey to cut the onion flavor even more. Together, the combo of the salt from the peanuts, the savory from the cheese, and the sweet from the strawberries was sublime. Each bite of the salad is slightly different, depending on what you scoop up with your fork, but it is all delicious. Kelly even said it was her favorite thing I’ve made yet!

Health Tip: Quinoa is a gluten free ‘grain’ (technically it is a seed, but it is treated like a grain in cooking) that contains all of the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and the essential amino acids are the ones our body can’t make, or can’t make enough of, and we must obtain them from our diet. Most foods containing all of the essential amino acids are meat and dairy products, making it harder for vegetarians and vegans to get all of the essentials in their diet. (Don’t worry, you won’t become deficient if you don’t eat every single essential amino acid every day, you just need to obtain all of them from your diet every few days). Quinoa is an excellent source of complete protein for everyone, so if you haven’t tried it, make this recipe tonight. I’m sure you will find it delicious.

Spring Harvest Quinoa Salad

serves 6

2 cups quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

1 1/3 cup shelled fava beans

2 cups thinly sliced leeks

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

2 cups sliced strawberries

1/2 cup pistachio pieces

1 tablespoon oil

For the vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon honey

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and set aside in a large bowl. (You can do this while you prep all of your ingredients).

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the shelled fava beans and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain, and let cool until you can handle them. Slip the beans out from their skin and set aside. Discard the skins.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low. Add the leeks and saute for about 7 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and fava beans and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat.

Add the sauteed leek mixture, pistachios, parsley, and vinaigrette to the quinoa. Toss to mix well. Add the strawberries, and goat cheese and mix just until combined. Enjoy!

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