This salad couldn’t come at a better time. I’ve just returned home after a long weekend in Austin, Texas. Taco after taco, margarita after margarita. Chips and salsa in between. On the return home, I ate a scoop of Mexican vanilla ice cream for dinner. It was incredible.
This was a girls’ trip, just for fun, and it was desperately needed. My taste buds got a break from all the cookbook recipe testing and now, I’m craving healthy home cooking once again. Please, remind me to take real vacations more often!
This mega-healthy quinoa and spinach salad was inspired by a Whole Foods buffet salad that I found in Kansas City last week. I was desperate for recipe inspiration, so I sampled a few of their salads and particularly enjoyed their spinach and quinoa salad with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. The sign said the salad had basil in it, but I sure couldn’t find any.
Anyway, I tried to recreate it at home and ended up making a few changes, of course. I swapped more affordable sliced almonds for the pine nuts (they taste better, too), skipped the nonexistent basil, and whipped up a zippy lemon dressing.
This salad packs up great for lunch. It would also make a lovely, protein-rich side salad. Top it with a fried egg and call it dinner. It’s vegan as is, but you could throw in some feta if you’d like. Chickpeas might be nice, too. Arugula is a great alternative to spinach (I could hardly decide between the two).
I’ve been frustrated with my quinoa ending up mushy lately, so I tried cooking the quinoa uncovered for 15 minutes this time, and it worked beautifully. I hope it works just as well for you. Please let me know!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh colander
- ⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach or arugula
- ⅓ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ teaspoon olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- To cook the quinoa: Combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 15 minutes, reducing heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes, which gives it time to fluff up.
- Meanwhile, to prepare the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
- To toast the almonds: Warm ¼ teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the almonds and a dash of salt and cook, stirring frequently (beware, these burn quickly!), until they are golden and fragrant. Transfer the toasted almonds to a medium-sized serving bowl to cool.
- Once the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and then transfer it into your serving bowl. Drizzle all of the dressing on top and toss to combine. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and wait a few more minutes to add the spinach so it doesn’t wilt completely. Toss again, season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve immediately.
Make it nut free: Replace the almonds with pepitas (green pumpkin seeds). Sunflower seeds might be nice, as would pine nuts if you aren't sensitive to them (they are technically seeds).
Storage suggestions: This quinoa will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for several days. Gently reheat or serve chilled.