“summer chill” quinoa salad bento

28 06 2012

quinoa — which is actually a seed, not a grain — is a superfood that i’ve used before (see exhibit A and exhibit B).  but since getting on the tone it up nutrition plan, which requires me to avoid starchy foods in the evenings, i’ve been turning to it more frequently as an accompaniment to lean proteins or as the base for refreshing salads.  the salad in today’s lunchbox is a perfect “summer chill” concoction, full of fresh seasonal veg and piquant flavor — i made it for some girlfriends coming over to hang out and drink wine on my roofdeck.  click through recipe and nutrition info.

“summer chill” quinoa salad — recipe of my own creation, serves 6

  • 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa (i used roland’s “roasted garlic” flavor)
  • 3 cups washed and dried baby zucchini (i quartered mine)
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 6 oz. crumbled feta (i used president’s fat-free version)
  • 1 cup chopped raw red onion
  • 4 tbsp. capers
  • 2 large handfuls fresh basil, torn instead of chopped

for the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard (trader joe’s version with white wine is a favorite in this household)
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and ground black pepper
  1. in a small saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil.  add the quinoa, stir thoroughly, cover and reduce heat to LOW simmer.  set your kitchen timer for 16 minutes and be prepared to check if all water is absorbed at that time (it may take approx. 2 more minutes of cooking).
  2. steam your baby zucchini and then shock in ice water; drain and dry.
  3. in a large salad bowl, mix the zucchini, tomatoes, and feta.
  4. put all the dressing ingredients in a small, lidded container; shake to mix.
  5. dump the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat.
  6. when your timer has gone off, check your quinoa — i find that turning the heat off (once the cooking time has elapsed) but allowing it to steam another few minutes makes it perfect.  when it’s done (it should still be chewy, not mushy but certainly not hard), fluff it gently with a fork and allow to cool.
  7. once the quinoa has cooled, mix it into the dressed veggies.  finally, gently fold in the torn basil.
  8. if you wish, top with chopped scallions.

so… despite the minor dairy component here (just 1 oz. per serving), i think this is a great meal 3 or meal 5 on the plan.  i’ve noticed that since adopting the the “eat lean, clean and green” mentality, i’ve focused less on calories and more on whether i feel hungry or full, tired or energetic.  after all, i LOVE food and always want to enjoy flavors, but ultimately it’s the fuel that our body runs on… and this salad is great fuel!

nutritional stats:

  • salad served on a bed of 2 cups chopped romaine — 15 calories (20 mg. sodium, 4 g. carbs [1 g. fiber, 1.5 g. sugar], 50% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C, 2% calcium)
  • quinoa salad — 235 calories (4.9 g. fat [0.3 g. saturated, 0.4 g. poly, 1.7 mono, 0 trans], 5 mg. cholesterol, 765 mg. sodium, 345 mg. potassium, 32 g. carbs [5 g. fiber, 5 g. sugar], 15 g. protein, 15% vitamin A, 60% vitamin C, 20% calcium, 16% iron)

quite high in protein and iron for a salad — not to mention the expected vitamin benefits.  sweet!


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7 responses

28 06 2012
fortheloveoflibraries

Yum! I’ve been looking for cold-dishes for the summer and I can’t wait to try this. It’s going to be 107 here this weekend, no way I want to eat anything remotely warm.

28 06 2012
gamene

i hope you enjoy it as much as me and my girlfriends did! i think the basil and dijon give it just the right amount of zing… but the tomatoes and chilled zukes keep it light and refreshing. don’t forget to stay hydrated too🙂

4 07 2012
Quinoa Salad Bento

[…] fresh summer bento by Gamene features cold quinoa […]

6 07 2012
bentobirdjenn

Gorgeous summer salad, and I agree, quinoa is amazing. I always feel refreshed and uplifted when its part of a meal. Thanks for sharing another vibrant and beautifully crafted recipe, megan, and here’s wishing you a fun weekend! I think we may head to San Francisco in search of a Szechuan “fix”!

6 07 2012
babykins

I think quinoa is one of new foods that I have to try out in the future. So this recipe is really helpful and inspiring for me! Perfect for summer!

15 07 2012
Blorgie

Your presentation makes it sing. It’s cold here today but reading this post has made me want this freshness. How do you find the fat free feta?

15 07 2012
gamene

hi blorgie, most of the supermarkets in my area carry the fat free feta, it comes in an 8 oz. tub un-crumbled, or a 6 oz. tub crumbled ( http://www.presidentcheese.com/cheese/products-light-cheese.php) and it’s made by president… they have some other nice flavors with only slightly more fat, too.

thanks so much for your sweet comment🙂

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