Spinach and Quinoa Salad

This is a tasty recipe that I recently stumbled upon that is just what one needs to help meet those daily grain and veggie servings that our bodies crave for good heath. This simple spinach and quinoa salad is packed full of protein from the quinoa and vitamins K, A, and E and minerals such as magnesium and calcium from the dark, leafy greens of the spinach. But, let’s not leave out the the key reasons I’m posting this salad recipe: it’s delicious and only requires a handful of ingredients.

Because the recipe calls for soaking the quinoa for a hour, there is plenty of time to do the quick prep work with the remaining ingredients and be ready to go. This salad provides either four main-dish servings or eight side-dish servings. Try it both ways!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa

3 cups vegetable stock

3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (you’ll need a medium to large lemon)

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. sea salt

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried and chopped

2 medium to large shallots

Here are the primary ingredients you'll need to make this delicious spinach and quinoa salad.
Here are the primary ingredients you’ll need to make this delicious spinach and quinoa salad.

Directions:

We’ll start with the quinoa first. You should have no problem finding quinoa in the rice and grains section of your grocery store.

Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor.
Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor.

Measure out 1 and 1/2 cups of the quinoa and…

You'll need 1 and 1/2 cups of uncooked quinoa.
You’ll need 1 and 1/2 cups of uncooked quinoa.

…pour into a small bowl and cover with water.

Cover the quinoa with water.
Cover the quinoa with water.

Put the bowl aside and let it sit for a hour uncovered.

The soaking quinoa.
The soaking quinoa.

Ok, so while the quinoa is soaking, there’s plenty of time to prep a couple of the other ingredients. Let’s take care of the juice that we’ll need to squeeze from your lemon. A medium-size lemon should easily give your the 3 Tbs. you need. if you have extra juice, you can always sprinkle it over the salad when you’re finished preparing it.

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A ripe lemon waiting to be cut and juiced!

Cut your lemon in half and use a citrus juicer, or hold a lemon half fruit side up in the palm of your hand and squeeze over the container you’re using (this mostly prevents seeds from slipping in) and repeat with other half.

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Sliced lemon halves about to be juiced.
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Something very satisfying about squeezing the juice out of a lemon.

Set aside the lemon juice. Let’s focus on the spinach.

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You’ll want two cups of fresh spinach for this recipe.

Give the spinach a thorough rinsing.

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The spinach getting a good rinsing.

Now, to drying the spinach before chopping it. You can certainly use a salad spinner, but that only gets so much water out. I have some success using paper towels.I place the washed spinach on several paper towels:

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Rinsed spinach on cushion of paper towels.

Then I place another couple of paper towels on top of the spinach and press down to absorb a bit of the moisture.

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More paper towels on top and press down…

And then I roll up the spinach in the paper towels and press down to squeeze out more moisture.

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Rolling up the spinach and pressing down to squeeze out remaining moisture.

And, we end up with pretty dry spinach (after you chop it and let it sit out for a few minutes, any remaining moisture will be gone).

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The (mostly) dried two cups of spinach.

This would be the time to cut off any stems from the spinach leaves if you so wish. They don’t bother me but you can stack  those leaves with large stems and with one cut remove the stems.

Now, we need to chop the spinach. Take a sharp knife and just cut away, into bite size pieces. Alternative is to tear the pieces with your hands.

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I just gave the spinach a rough cut.

Set aside the spinach. Lets move on to the shallots. The shallots work well in this salad because they are a mild and slightly sweet type of onion without the sharper bite of yellow or red onions and they have a nice crunch to them.

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Here are two shallots ready to be peeled and sliced.

Before you chop the shallots, they need to be peeled. I found the easiest way to peel onions, whether smaller like shallots or larger like red onions, is to nearly cut off both ends without totally removing them.

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Cut both ends almost to completion but stop short of cutting them off entirely.

This makes it so easy to start from the cut part and pull off the skin fairly quickly from one end to the other. If you lose a layer of onion in the process, it’s no big deal.

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Pull from one cut end to the other and you’ll have quickly peeled your shallot.

Chop your shallots into small pieces and set aside for later.

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The two chopped shallots.

This brings us back to one of our star ingredients: remember the quinoa? Pour the quinoa that’s been soaking for the last hour into a strainer. Don’t be upset if you lose a grain or two in the process. There will still be more than enough left for the recipe.

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Pour the soaked quinoa into a strainer.

Time to rinse the quinoa; yeah, I know, seems silly since its been soaking but it will remove any residual stuff. Give the quinoa a thorough rinsing in your strainer in the kitchen sink and let sit for a bit, while we get our vegetable stock taken care of.

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Rinse the quinoa and let it sit in the strainer for a bit when you’re done.

Now for the vegetable stock. Try to find a low-sodium stock.

Here's my go-to stock.
Here’s my go-to stock.

Measure out three cups of the vegetable stock and pour into a medium-sized pot.

Measure out three cups of the broth and pour into medium-sized pot.
Measure out three cups of the broth and pour into medium-sized pot.

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Turn the heat up to medium high, bringing the vegetable broth to a boil and then add in the quinoa.

The broth is coming to a boil so...
The broth is coming to a boil so…
...in goes the quinoa.
…in goes the quinoa.

Bring the broth and quinoa back up to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes util the broth has been absorbed entirely.

Broth with quinoa brought up to a boil so turn down the temp to medium-low.
Broth with quinoa brought up to a boil so turn down the temp to medium-low.

If you’re like me, and can never find the right-sized lid in your cabinets for the pot you’re using, take a decent-sized plate and cover the pot leaving a space for the steam to vent. It works perfectly fine, but use an oven mitt when moving the plate to check on the progress of the quinoa because it will be hot.

My creative but effective alternative to a pot lid.
My creative but effective alternative to a pot lid.

Cook the quinoa for about 15 minutes. The timing is about right but never hurts to check the progress after about 10 or 12 minutes in to make sure you’re not going to burn the quinoa or have it be dried out. The quinoa should be moist enough that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan with no remaining liquid.

The cooked quinoa should be easily able to come off the bottom of your pot.
The cooked quinoa should be easily able to come off the bottom of your pot.

At this point, we’re just going to introduce the rest of the ingredients into the quinoa, starting with the lemon juice from earlier. Add in the 3 Tbs. of fresh lemon juice  into the pot.

The first of the three Tbs. of lemon juice to join the quinoa.
The first of the 3 Tbs. of lemon juice to join the quinoa.

Next is the olive oil. You’ll be needing 2 Tbs. of extra-virgin olive oil.

Important tip:  It’s ok to use  your run-of-the-mill olive oil when you’re cooking or sauteing things, but when you’er adding in olive oil to a salad or using it for dipping, you want a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil so that its wonderful taste is what you remember. I am fortunate enough to have recently purchased Palestinian olive oil from my childhood friend Maad, whose Daily Hugz organization takes in abused animals and provides them with sanctuary and loving care while providing an environment for Palestinian children with special needs to interact with the animals (http://www.dailyhugz.org/).  Not only is his charity phenomenal but so is his olive oil, which is why I love to use it in this salad recipe.

Use high-quality olive oil in this type of recipe because the taste makes a difference.
Use high-quality olive oil in this type of recipe because the taste makes a difference.
Adding in the all-important olive oil.
Adding in the all-important olive oil.

The recipe at this point calls for 1/4 tsp. of sea salt and pepper to taste.

Here goes the 1/4 tsp. of sea salt and dash of pepper.
Here goes the 1/4 tsp. of sea salt and dash of pepper.

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Give those added ingredients a good stir in with the quinoa. Next up is to introduce the chopped spinach and shallots into the mix.

The chopped spinach takes its place in with the quinoa.
The chopped spinach takes its place in with the quinoa.
And finally, the chopped shallots.
And finally, the chopped shallots.

Stir in the spinach and shallots so that they are evenly distributed into the quinoa salad.

Mix in the spinach and shallots and we're ready to go.
Mix in the spinach and shallots and we’re ready to go.

All that’s left to do is plate this beautiful and delicious salad. You can serve it immediately or at room temperature.

Here is the plated spinach-quinoa salad.
Here is the plated spinach and quinoa salad.

Nutritional Breakdown:

For four main-dish servings: 

Per serving: Cal: 304; Total Fat: 10 g. (Sat Fat: 1.4 g); Chol: 0 mg.; Sodium: 176 mg.; Pro: 10 g.; Carb: 43 g.

For eight side-dish servings:

Per serving: Cal:  152; Total Fat: 5 g. (Sat Fat: 0.7 g.); Chol: 0 mg.;  Sodium: 88 mg.; Pro: 5 g.; Carb: 22 g.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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