The best quinoa and spinach salad EVER!
This salad is so addictive! Inspired by a salad I had at a Kansas City “wine dive,” as well as a spinach and orzo salad I used to make, I created this healthy and delicious cold quinoa salad, and it’s always a big hit at parties and potlucks. I love the contrast of all the different ingredients, as well as the sharp taste of the feta balanced by the sweet-and-sour of the vinaigrette, and the subtle spinach and nutty quinoa.
Quinoa is a healthier alternative to pasta like orzo, because it’s a complete protein in and of itself, plus it’s fairly low-glycemic for a grain. And, for those who care, it’s gluten-free.
It’s best made a few hours ahead, I think. I don’t know if it keeps longer than 24 hours, because if there are any leftovers in the fridge that night, I’m likely to I always polish them off as a midnight snack!
If I were making this just for myself, I would use the full amount of feta, but when I’m serving a crowd, I usually put in half the feta, and serve some alongside for those who would like to add more. If you’re serving a nut-sensitive crowd, you could also leave out the nuts and provide them as a garnish.
Spinach and quinoa salad with balsamic vinaigrette
2 c. thoroughly rinsed quinoa (a 12-oz. package of pre-rinsed)
2 T. butter
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 of a medium red onion, finely diced
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. rice vinegar, or a mix
1 – 2 T. maple syrup
1/2 c. olive oil
5 – 6 oz. baby spinach, chopped
2 – 4 T. crumbled feta cheese, to taste
1-1/3 c. craisins, chopped apple, or a combination
2 – 3 T. fresh basil (optional)
pecan and/or walnut pieces, to taste – maybe 1/2 cup
Make sure your quinoa is thoroughly rinsed, until the water runs clean. If not, it will be bitter. More info here.
Melt butter in a large skillet, and saute the quinoa till it just starts turning golden brown. (This step is optional. If you’re pressed for time, feel free to skip it.)
Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let it sit — still covered — for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the red onion and put it in the bottom of a large mixing/serving bowl. Combine the vinegar, sweetener and olive oil in a small jar and shake to combine. Set aside.
Once the quinoa is done, and if there’s any excess liquid, drain that off. Pour the quinoa over the onions and place that mixture in the fridge to cool off. The reason: subjecting the onions to the heat of the cooked quinoa will mellow them a bit, and start them releasing their flavors into the mixture.
Once the quinoa is cooled, pour the vinegar mixture over the salad. Stir gently till well combined. If you have more than 2 hours to serving time, cover and place back in the fridge.
An hour or two before serving, add the spinach, feta, and craisins or apple. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. More feta for a sharper taste; more Splenda and/or fruit for a sweeter taste.
Add the fresh basil and nuts just before serving.
Nutrition data from myfitnesspal.com:
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value *|
|Total Fat 25 g||38 %|
|Saturated Fat 5 g||24 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 9 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 9 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 12 g||4 %|
|Sodium 188 mg||8 %|
|Potassium 428 mg||12 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 39 g||13 %|
|Dietary Fiber 4 g||16 %|
|Sugars 13 g|
|Protein 9 g||18 %|
|Vitamin A||1 %|
|Vitamin C||12 %|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|