Pesto Quinoa Salad
I’m constantly on a quest to find good lunch dishes that are something different than the classic sandwich. It’s a tough deal because you want something flavorful and tasty, but it also needs to be filling and healthy.
If I don’t have a filling lunch, I find myself snacking on the chips at about 4PM. Ok. I sometimes snack no matter what, but it’s especially bad if I skip a hearty lunch.
Quinoa has been the perfect base for my lunch salad experiments. It has a good amount of protein and fiber which will keep you full. It also has a great texture and can be thrown in with a huge list of other tasty ingredients.
In short, quinoa is my salad king.
Pesto Quinoa Salad
Yield: Serves 6-8.
8 ounces quinoa, cooked
1 small red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 orange or green pepper, diced
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and diced
1 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large beet, roasted and diced (opt.)
1/3 Cup parsley, chopped
Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto
2 Cups basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 Cup pine nuts
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper
Food Processor for pesto
1) Combine pesto ingredients in a processor and pulse until combined.
2) Cook quinoa according to package and set aside.
3) While quinoa cooks, chop all your veggies and roast your beet (350 for about an hour) if you're using beets.
4) Combine veggies with quinoa. Crumble in feta. Toss with pesto.
5) The salad is best if you let it chill before serving.
Making the Pesto
I make pesto all the time and I love playing around with the flavors. A bit more garlic or pine nuts can really change the flavor of it and make it very different. If you’re making it, don’t stress about the exact amounts. Just taste it as you go and adjust.
It takes just a minute or two to toss all the ingredients into a processor and pulse it together. When I make pesto, I normally make a double or triple batch and then freeze some pesto for later.
If you’re in a super-rush, you can use jarred pesto without a problem also.
Cooking quinoa is like cooking a strange mix between oatmeal and beans. Basically, I just always follow the instructions on the package and it ends up being great.
It’s a really flexible grain so if, while you’re cooking it, you notice that yours is a bit dry, feel free to add more water. One time I added way too much water and just strained my quinoa through a strainer when it was done and that worked great also.
So, basically, it’s pretty hard to screw up.
Cooking it takes maybe 15-20 minutes. It’s not too bad.
If you have leftovers, this stuff freezes great actually. Just cool it down completely and then seal it in a freezer bag. Try to get out as much air as possible and it’ll keep in your freezer for a few months. Then you can just thaw it in the microwave (low power) when needed.
It’s okay that the quinoa takes a few minutes to cook because you’ll have a lot of chopping to do to finish off the salad.
The veggies I used in the salad are just a suggestion. I would definitely keep the onion, feta and chickpeas though. Those are really nice flavor additions.
Try to dice up all your ingredients so they are roughly the same size. The onions should maybe be a bit smaller.
Unless you’re an expert chopper, this will take a few minutes, but it’s worth it because you’re getting meals for days out of it.
I had a spare beet sitting around so I roasted it up and included it in the salad. This is very optional. The beet added some nice sweetness to the dish which I liked but it also had the unfortunate side effect of turning the salad a kind of purple color!
If you’ve never roasted a beet before, just toss it on a baking sheet and roast it at 350 until it’s very tender, about an hour normally.
Let it cool a bit and then you can peel it and dice it up.
A salad like this is very flexible. Start by adding your quinoa to the veggies that you’ve chopped and then add enough pesto to lightly coat the salad. You should need about 1 to 1 1/2 Cups of pesto, but feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes.
I stirred in my beet last to try to minimize the color burn, but it still turned stuff pretty red.
My final salad wasn’t quite as appealing as the nice green salad in the first photo, but it tasted better in my opinion. I loved the beet addition.
So let the record state that pesto plus quinoa plus a bunch of random veggies makes for a really good lunch!