I’m so over winter. I know, I know, we all say that. But I am. I can’t. even. handle. it. The sweaters and the coats and the earmuffs and the socks. Ugh, the socks. My poor feet need breathing room; my toes need to mingle with the air. After a while, the lack of sunshine gets to you; not only is my skin so pale by mid march that I freakin’ GLOW in the dark, but my mood is anemic too. Vitamin D, where are you?
So I need spring, and that goes for food too. No more braises, no more roasting, no more starches and carbs and cream and butter. Or at least less of those things; I’m not crazy. More veggies, please. Problem is, at this point of the year, virtually nothing is in season; nothing I’m craving anyways. So what do you do? I suggest you try this salad made from seeds and beans and a few basic veggies you can find year round, and perked up with smoked paprika and a just enough cheese.
Are you familiar with quinoa? It’s an “ancient grain,” that’s not so much a grain, but a seed related to spinach (or so says Wiki and Wiki knows all). The cool part about quinoa, apart from the fact that each one has a little “tail” that pops out when it’s done cooking, is that it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 amino acids. Most complete proteins are meats. This guy isn’t. Vegetarian protein-excellent. Also, its nutty and slightly crunchy and delicious and fluffy and only takes a few minutes to make. You should try it.
The main components of this salad are fairly mundane: pseudo-grains, chickpeas, tomato, spinach, and cucumbers. But the clincher that makes this great is the smoked paprika dressing. Smoked paprika is kind of like sweet paprika’s sultry cousin. It’s, well, smokey. Shocking I know. It’s flavorful, but not spicy, and can be used on anything from fish to chicken to beef to tofu to pseudo-grain complete proteins. It’s good on ANY thing and if you haven’t tried it yet, you should…now. This salad is a lick to put together and a good way to beat the winter blues before anything really starts to grow again. It certainly helped me feel better about things this week and I hope it help you too. Just a few weeks left….I hope…
Quinoa, Bean and Smoked Paprika Salad
Modified from Bon Appetit. Serves 6.
This salad lends itself to countless substitutions and modifications. This time I subbed one of the cans of garbanzo beans for black beans. I can see it with red onion, pine nuts, walnuts, raisins, craisins, capers, carrots or really any veggies you have on hand. Go for it.
1 1/2 c quinoa (9 to 10 ounces), rinsed, drained
4 c (packed) baby spinach leave
2 15- to 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
1 3/4 c. cucumber, diced small
1 1-pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 c (packed) fresh mint leaves
3/4 c coarsely crumbled feta cheese (about 3-4 ounces), divided
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T smoked paprika
1/4 c olive oil
- In a small pot, add enough water to the quinoa to cover it by 1″. Season with salt
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer until the “tails” pop out of the quinoa and it’s tender (~15 min). Drain and cool
- When cool, add the spinach, chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, and feta and mix
- Whisk the vinegar, paprika, oil, sugar, and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper
- Pour dressing over salad, toss to coat and eat!