Monday, June 13, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Leeks, Fresh Basil and Feta

I'm trying to behave myself.  Eating-wise, that is.  After last weekend's total glutton fest at the farm, I'm feeling the need to eat a little lighter, with a little less emphasis on the butter and bacon :(

It's not such a hardship.  I love me a nice big salad in summer - something simple, not requiring much effort on my part, because honestly after a day spent in the extreme hell of hotness - aka the kitchen at work -  I just want to hang out in the tranquil shade of my backyard - sipping a cocktail, reading a juicy novel, or just watching the cats chase bugs and birds.  'Tis summer after all!

Quinoa is my new best friend.  Read here for how awesome it is with curry and for the nutritious bonus points it packs.  You can add a multitude of flavours to it too, and it's always a shining star.  In this case, it was a little clean-out-the-fridge-and-add-it-to-quinoa-and-see-what-happens.  Magic, I tell ya.  Magic!!!

Leeks are the cosmopolitan cousins to the scallion.  Sweeter, with less of a bite, and simply marvelous when sauteed in a little butter or olive oil.  I'm totally digging them lately, as I've been putting them on turkey burgers, and even in a quiche on the weekend.  Lovely stuff.  Julie had put them in a quinoa salad a little while back, so this recipe is a bit of take off from that, with some modifications here and there.  Like I said, anything goes really.  I added some asparagus and fresh basil from the market, a chunk of feta, some toasted almonds just for fun, and nice juicy organic Roma's I got for a steal.  All bathed in a light olive oil and lime juice vinaigrette.  I packed it up and took it over to my Mom's where we ate it with some incredible artichoke asiago foccacia from Christie's Bakery.  (Yes, we did the Earl's thing and dunked it in olive oil/balsamic vinegar.  THAT never gets old.)

What else can I say about this salad?  It's healthy, delicious, pretty, and pretty darn good the second day, if you have leftovers.  Have I mentioned it gluten-free too?  Celiacs rejoice!  Now the hard part is saying goodbye to my good buddy bacon...

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Leeks, Fresh Basil and Feta

1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well, for 3 minutes under running water
2 leeks, white and light green parts only; sliced in half lengthwise, then rinsed very well to get the gritty bits out and then thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
6 or 7 asparagus spears, blanched, and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup feta, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 small handful basil, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lime or lemon
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, add the rinsed quinoa with 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain, and put back into pot, cover with lid and steam for another half hour or so.  Put in a large bowl, and let cool.  Meanwhile, after you've rinsed the leeks very well, and sliced them, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the leeks when it's hot, and saute until they start to caramelize, oh about 12-15 minutes or so.  Add this to the quinoa.  Add the rest of your veggies.  In a jar, add the vinaigrette ingredients (oil-s&p) and shake shake shake.  Add to the quinoa mix and stir.  Adjust seasonings...let chill in the fridge while you go out and do something fun.  Or do nothing at all and take a nap. 


  1. This salad looks awesome Renee!!!

  2. this sounds delicious. I'm concerned about an instruction. how do you drain the quinoa and then steam if all the liquid has been drained? I'm afraid to send this and look really dumb but I'm going for it anyway.

  3. It's pretty easy Jean - just drain the quinoa, put it back in the pot you cooked it in, cover with a lid and the heat from the cooked quinoa will essentially steam itself. Hope that makes sense!

  4. How do you rinse that stuff without losing it all down the drain??????????

  5. You rinse quinoa in a sieve with tiny holes, or one made of mesh, not a strainer with large holes. There is no escape for it then!

  6. Your salad looks terrific! Bacon and butter are two of my faves as well but everyone needs a break from them from time to time. Looks like you aren't suffering too much with that delicious salad on hand!

  7. Totally caved and ate a BLT at work today. It was glorious!!!

  8. This recipe was fantastic! I left out the cheese due to lactose intolerance but to be honest it doesn't need it! I used sweetened lime juice as well and it was delicious. Thank you for this! The caramelized leeks are really a great touch.


  9. I also subbed cilantro for the basil since I had so much left over. Still delicious!


  10. Thanks Stacey! Your variation sounds delicious.


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