116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
After all my years of career life, how to fill the lunchbox remains an ongoing exercise. For me, the obvious answer has always been 1) last night’s leftovers or 2) a veggie-filled salad or 3) takeout.
It’s always a welcome treat when lunch is provided at professional association meetings because preparing my own lunch is one less decision I have to make. I do love the occasional restaurant meal, but some days it’s too cold to venture out, or I don’t have time. Lately, my quinoa-chickpea salad has come to the rescue.
This recipe began last summer as a way to avoid standing in front of a hot stove to prepare supper. I like having two or three salads on hand in the refrigerator for those hot days and evenings. Easy salads work well for supper and as leftovers the next day at lunch.
This salad travels well to work and as a potluck offering. It remains satisfying even now in deep winter. It’s a bountiful, colorful and nourishing dish that fits the salad-as-a-meal category. And, when you combine a grain with a legume, that equals a complete protein.
With roughly equal amounts of canned chickpeas and cooked quinoa as the base, the salad is built by adding bell pepper, scallions, dates and generous amounts of chopped parsley, cilantro and mint.
The simple dressing is made with olive oil, lemon juice, wine vinegar and whatever spices I happen to be in the mood to add. The final touch is a handful or so of sliced almonds, toasted if I have time.
You can add, substitute and experiment with this recipe. I sometimes toss in sliced radishes, shredded carrots or bits of leftover cooked broccoli. Don’t like quinoa? Use rice or another grain you prefer. Instead of chickpeas, you could use Great Northern. Cooked lentils that have been very well drained and have not been overcooked could work well, too. But really, take this idea and make the salad your own.
I encourage you to keep the abundance of chopped, fresh herbs. I like parsley, cilantro and mint because they harmonize and it’s nice to have an herbal surprise in each bite. You can use one or more herbs to suit your fancy. Fresh herbs are full of nutrients and their green flavor reminds me of sunshine.
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked and chilled quinoa
2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped, including green tops
1 bell pepper (or more), any color you prefer
1 large carrot, freshly shredded and/or a few sliced radishes
1/2 cup chopped dates or other dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)
1/2 cup each of fresh herbs, chopped: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, mint
1/3 cup, approximately, of sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
To a large bowl, add chickpeas, scallions, bell pepper, carrot and dates. Start by adding half the prepared dressing. Toss well. Fold in quinoa and then chopped herbs, gently stirring until all ingredients and dressing are evenly incorporated, but taking care not to mash the quinoa.
Taste for seasoning and add as much remaining dressing as you like, but not so much that the salad is soaked. Sprinkle almonds over the top. Allow salad to rest in the refrigerator or at room temperature until serving so the spices can settle.
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, plus grated zest
1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Dijon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional spices, such as: 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon cumin; or 1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala; or 1 1/2 teaspoons of any prepared spice mixture that you like
For the dressing, mix all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust salt and pepper according to your liking.
Source: Lisa Williams