Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quinoa Salad with Chicken and Vegetables

Quinoa Salad with Chicken and Vegetables

Do you find it a struggle to eat healthy? It can be difficult, especially if you do a lot of traveling. Fresh fruit and vegetables can seem rather scarce when you're on the road. When you get back home, it's a good time to dig into something delicious but also more virtuous.

Grain salads are perfect for this. This quinoa salad was inspired by a recent lunch at Spring Street Natural, a cafe in Soho where Chris and I like to go for lunch after a morning of shopping and gallery hopping.

This recipe is quite versatile. Consider it more like a suggestion. The combination of the cashews, avocado and quick-pickled onion are what make it special, but you could use other pickles, other nuts, other vegetables, etc.

Quinoa Salad with Chicken and Vegetables
Inspired by the Organic Rainbow Quinoa Salad at Spring Street Natural, with quick onion technique from The Kitchn

Makes 3 dinner portions

Pickled onion:
2 cups water
1/2 red onion, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup rainbow quinoa (may use other colors of quinoa), rinsed under cold water
1 cup water

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. chicken breast cutlets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Other salad ingredients:
2 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cucumber, partially peeled, seeded and chopped (see note) into 1/2 inch cubes
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup roasted unsalted cashews
1/4 cup roasted unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, cut into thin ribbons
2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes
1/4 cup small feta cheese cubes

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. honey
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Note: To partially peel cucumber, use a vegetable peeler to cut parallel stripes along the side of the cucumber.

1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. Place onions in a mesh sieve and slowly pour the boiling water over the onions. Add the onions to a jar or other small container. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt until the latter two ingredients are dissolved and then add to the container with the onions. Allow the onions to pickle for at least 30 minutes (you can set them out on the counter for this time, but if you're going to let them pickle longer, I suggest putting them in the refrigerator).

2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa (it's okay if it's still damp from rinsing) and toast, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa makes a frequently popping sound, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 18 to 20 minutes until the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and keep covered for about 5 minutes. Remove lid, stir and allow to cool a bit.

3. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Pat the chicken breast cutlets dry and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until cooked through and lightly browned, about 10 minutes, turning halfway. Set aside on a cutting board to cool a bit, then cut the chicken into cubes.

4. In a large salad bowl, combine arugula, cucumber, avocado, cashews, pepitas, mint, aleppo pepper and feta cheese. Drain the pickled onions and add then the bowl. Add the cooked chicken and quinoa. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Toss to combine and serve in large shallow bowls.

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