Show off Summer's colorful produce with this healthy meal-in-a-bowl salad. Last Friday, I took it to a wedding reception filled with local and sustainable-food foodies (my peeps!) and they ate every bite. It satisfies many current diets: organic, vegan, no added fat, gluten-free, and local. Let this satisfying, make-ahead dish get you through the dog-days of summer. From my book Fifty Weeks of Green: Romance & Recipes.
Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Chioggia Beets, Cukes, and Peppers
Active time: 20 minutes, starting with cooked chickpeas. Total time: 30 minutes, but it's actually best then next day. Makes 4 main-dish servings or 8 sides.
- 4 small beets (save any beet greens for another recipe)
- 1 cup quinoa (170 grams)
- 1 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cucumber (about 1 cup chopped)
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (250 grams)
- 1/2 cup chickpea broth, apple juice, or water
- Put on an old or dark apron or shirt in case the beets splash and stain. Actually, do it because the beets WILL splash and stain. Scrub beets and pierce several times with a fork. Save any beet leaves for another recipe. Put beet bulbs in a covered, microwave-safe container and microwave on high for five minutes. (Poking and covering keeps beets from exploding in your microwave and making a mess! The picture below shows a raw beet on the left and a beet that is puffy and split from the steam pressure while cooking.)
- Turn beets over and microwave until they are fork-tender, about five more minutes. Uncover and let cool so you can peel them.
- Put quinoa, water, and salt in a medium pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low so water barely boils and cook covered for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and, without lifting the lid, let quinoa finish steaming for five minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut slices off both ends of the cucumber and taste, then peel if bitter. Cut cucumber and pepper into bite-sized pieces. Put vegetables into a non-absorbant serving or storage container as you go. For example, a glass bowl shows off the colors and won't stain.
- Cut off stem and root ends of beets and compost. Peel beets and cut into bite-sized pieces, saving beet juice. If you have Chioggia beets, the ones with light and dark circles inside, cut them to show off the pattern. (See the top picture.)
- Fluff quinoa with a fork. Toss with chickpeas and vegetables, then drizzle with any beet juice and about half the chickpea broth to deepen the flavor and help the salad stick together a bit for easier eating. Use apple juice or water if you are using canned chickpeas. Toss again until the beets turn the quinoa pink, taste, and add salt or more chickpea broth if desired.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Keeps refrigerated for 5 days.
- Show off your colorful finds in your garden or at the market: purple or red bell peppers; yellow or green cucumbers; and purple, orange, or golden beets. Different colors are more fun and indicate a wide range of nutrients.
- Use what is in season and is a good buy. Mix up the quantities and proportions to suit your taste and the situation. Add chopped avocado just before serving in place of the cucumber, use cooked green beans instead of bell pepper, add halved cherry tomatoes, or top with basil ribbons. Update November 2013: I just made the version shown below for Thanksgiving using roasted vegetables: beets, carrots, celery, and onions.
- Make-ahead tips. This recipe is at its best after a night in the fridge, which allows the juiciness of the vegetables to make a low-low-cal "dressing" for the quinoa. Cook even further ahead if you want: make the chickpeas and quinoa up to four days in advance and refrigerate until needed. Microwave beets in advance or bake them in foil for about an hour while you bake something else.
- Safety tip. Advanced preparation for any ingredient starts the "use by" clock ticking. Compost it all after seven days or if it has been unrefrigerated for more than four hours.