Quinoa and Herb Salad with Blueberries, Marcona Almonds, and Lemon Vinaigrette

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blueberries: Beyond Pancakes

I couldn’t resist posting my recipe for blueberry pancakes over the weekend: who doesn’t love pancakes, after all? Despite that and other sweet posts, it’s amazing that no matter how many times I tell people I’m a moderate they still fear eating in front of me. Sigh.

I guess in part that’s because I do have a lot of other healthy habits that dominate the way I generally eat. Take salad, for example, which I consume a lot. I mean, like, a lot. Among other reasons related to health and convenience, I truly just love salad, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for three fundamentals of nutrition – variety, balance, and moderation – to come out and play. And when you add amazingly tasty dressings … well, what’s not to love? (Yes, add the dressing: upcoming post on why you should and short video how-to coming very soon.) Take the last big salad recipe I posted, for example, which featured three berries, blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and a strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette. Quite delicious indeed.

Today’s salad also has blueberries – still in season in New England for a bit longer – but otherwise the flavors, ingredients, and nutritional profile are completely different. Like my recent posts on sangria and grilled corn tapas, this dish also has Spanish influences from the Marcona almonds (so, so good) and quinoa (indigenous Andean). The original concept for this salad came from one I tried a few years ago in Whole Foods, although this recipe is distinctly my own and has a different dressing with more vegetables and beans, too. With summer flavors and flavorful phytonutrient-packed greens as well as beans, nuts, and berries – all the stuff that makes salad a meal – it’s another perfect dinner salad that won’t leave you hungry.

Ingredients. Organic quinoa (both red and white for variety and color), herbs (arugula, purslane, summer savory, oregano, and parsley), blueberries, scallions, Marcona almonds, feta cheese, and lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

Preparation and Plating. Prepare quinoa according to directions. Place arugula on the plate and top with ~1 cup of quinoa. Place remaining ingredients atop the salad artfully, as pictured. Serve at room temperature, and drizzle with vinaigrette immediately before serving. (Note: Do not premix the salad together with the vinaigrette; the quinoa will absorb the dressing and the salad will become gummy.)

Nutrition Notes. Where to begin? This salad has too many health benefits to discuss succinctly, so check these posts for a more general discussion of nutrition along with the joys of a big salad for dinner and making it your own. In brief, this meal is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s filled with whole grains*, lots of fresh herbs (more on purslane here), and nuts, a heart-healthy fat. (You can use whatever nut you want, but the Marcona almonds are spectacular.) And let’s not forget the beans, an amazing source of protein that Americans do not include in their diet often enough. While not an original ingredient in this salad, I happened to have the beans on hand after making burritos one day, and they added a lot of nutrition and flavor to the salad; you could leave them off, but I’ll definitely include them again next time. (Use what you’d like; I just happened to have yellow eye in the pantry.) Adding a bit of feta creates a beautiful taste and texture combination but it can be omitted in a vegan version.

Whether for Meatless Monday or any day of the week, you simply must try this salad.

* Quinoa is not botanically a whole grain, as it’s not a grass, but it’s included as one given its nutrient profile is similar to other whole grains. While it’s great in this salad, you can easily use brown rice or another whole grain of choice; farro or bulgur would work particularly well. The Whole Grains Council is a good source of information and can get you psyched for whole grains month, coming up in September. And that’s just the encore to an entire year celebrating whole grains in general and quinoa in particular, as 2013 was recently declared the International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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