Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Grilled Vegetables

Does the term “pasta salad” make you cringe? Does it conjure up flashbacks to hot, summer potlucks, and that one neighbor who always showed up with some gloppy, mayo-laden disaster?

The truth is, pasta salads are perfect for summer - light in calories, high in flavor, and they’re even great cold! But don’t stop at using only pasta as a base, try branching out to other whole grains, like barley, couscous, or quinoa (a Mediterranean grain that’s one of very few complete protein sources from plants). The secret to keeping these salads light is to rely on vegetables to round out your grain, and use spices, citrus juices, and heart-healthy olive oil to punch up the flavor.

Today’s recipe for Thursday’s Terra Treats is one that’s perfect for experimentation: marinated chickpeas are tossed with cooked quinoa, and the rest is up to you! Feel free to play around with the seasonings and the vegetables, following whatever your tastes want.

Write in with your favorite variation!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Grilled Vegetables

Directions (adapted from recipe):
1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric, divided
1 tsp smoked paprika, divided
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces), rinsed well, drained
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
4 medium zucchinis, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
2 medium red bell peppers, cored and quartered
½ medium white onion, cut into ¼-inch thick rings
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
4 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  1. Combine chickpeas and lemon juice in large bowl; add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Using a garlic press, press garlic (or very finely mince with a knife), add to bowl and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 hours. While this is marinating, rinse and drain the quinoa well to remove any excess starch.
  2. In medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds*, ½ teaspoon turmeric, and ½ teaspoon paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, being careful not to let spices burn. Add 2 cups water, rinsed quinoa, and kosher salt; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes.
    *Whole cumin seeds are preferable, and can be found at Indian and Mexican specialty stores; in a pinch, ground cumin can be substituted in equal amounts.
  3. As quinoa cooks on the stovetop, prepare grill (medium high heat) or broiler. Place zucchini, red bell pepper, and white onion on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with ground cumin, remaining ½ teaspoon turmeric, and remaining ½ teaspoon paprika. Toss to coat evenly, and sprinkle with generous amount of salt and pepper. Grill until tender and browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Remove zucchini from heat, and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. In a separate bowl, add grilled zucchini, sliced green onions, and chopped parsley to quinoa; then add the chickpea mixture and toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve outdoors, with good friends!

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