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Hot ‘n Cold Quinoa Primavera Salad

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I’ve worked hard over the years to eat foods that I know are good for me, but I don’t just want to eat them…I want to like them. No, I want to LOVE them. And so, a lot of my cooking adventures have been towards creating recipes that do just that for my taste buds.

It took me years to like yogurt (which, sadly, I can’t have any more since I am off dairy—it’s one of my food sensitivities—though my skin and gut are better for it!), but for a long time, my go-to breakfast was plain low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, cinnamon, chopped nuts, a handful of high-fiber cereal and a splash of vanilla extract. (Alas, I still miss it.) Fish was another big battle for me, and my desire to love it rather than just eat it is what inspired my Walnut-Crusted Whiting (aka The Perfect Fish Dish for Fish Haters).

Quinoa became a target when my family and I went off gluten (we all have a gluten sensitivity) to diversify our side dish options. More benefits of quinoa: It’s a great source of protein (1/4 cup uncooked has 6 grams of protein, about the same as an egg)…and it cooks quickly, which makes it so easy to prepare when I come home from work.

The texture of cold rice or gluten-free pastas are unappealing, but cold quinoa is totally fine. That also makes leftovers for this recipe perfect as an all-in-one brown-bag lunch.

Feel free to adapt this recipe for any vegetables you have on hand. The preparation here is based on what I had in the refrigerator that night: broccoli and leeks plus the bonus of asparagus from my garden. (Asparagus, a perennial, is a delicious and exciting early sign of spring!) Leeks add a special note in this flavor chord, but onions are a fine substitution. And toasted almonds send everything—salads, mains and desserts—over the top.

If you don’t prepare it well, quinoa can have a bitter, weird aftertaste. The two keys are rinsing it before you cook it…and powerful flavors that dominate the quinoa.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups broth such as vegetable or chicken (or 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons bouillon powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 crown broccoli
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • ½ cup sliced raw almonds.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley

Directions

Put quinoa into a fine mesh colander and rinse under cold water for a minute or so. Press the “shower” button on the faucet and shake the colander gently as you rinse to be sure that the water runs over all the quinoa. After you turn off the water, shake and drain a few times until all the water has run out and you are down to just a few random drips.

Put bay leaves and two cups of broth (or water and bouillon powder) in a medium saucepan to boil. Lower heat to keep it at a simmer and add quinoa. Cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

While that cooks, do your prep for cooking the vegetables…

Cut broccoli, stems and florets, into bit-sized pieces. Put into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for two minutes. This will speed up your stove time.

Slice leeks and cut asparagus into bite-sized lengths. I use a large cutting board that gives me space to cut each of these on the same board. Then I just leave them until I’m ready to use. (I try to use as few dishes as possible to make clean up as fast as possible.)

Next step: Toast the almonds. While you can buy pre-toasted almonds, they taste so much better when toasted fresh. Warm up a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is sizzling-hot (test with a splash of water), add almonds and toss continuously in the pan until they are lightly browned, about three minutes. (Note: You can also toast in the oven, but doing it on the stove means one less pan to clean!) Remove almonds to a bowl.

Using the same pan, set the heat to medium. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add leaks and sauté a couple of minutes until soft. Add the asparagus and sauté another minute or so (keep them firm, not mushy). Add the broccoli and sauté a few minutes more, making sure not to overcook (unless you like your vegetables mushy.)

At some point while the veggies are cooking, take a short break from the stove to chop the parsley.

Turn off the heat when the vegetables are cooked to your liking.

Pour vegetables over the quinoa, add parsley and mix to combine. Garnish with toasted almonds.

If you expect to have leftovers, serve the almonds at the table so everyone can garnish individually. Then you can store leftover almonds separately from the rest of the Quinoa Primavera to keep them crunchy. Let me know what you think!

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