Cilantro-Lemon Quinoa Salad with Avocados, Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Quinoa all day, every day. I love it. It’s like pasta without the guilt, it’s packed with protein, and goes with just about everything. This salad mixes avocado cubes, cherry tomatoes and chick peas with a cilantro-arugula dressing…it was terrific and would be great for a summer salad (just add the dressing right before serving).

– 1/2 C quinoa, cooked (this makes a surprising amount)– 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 2 C arugula
– 1/4 cup vidalia onion, chopped
– 1 garlic clove
– 1 avocado, diced
– 1.5 C cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Cilantro-Lemon Dressing
– Juice from 1.5 lemons & zest
– 3/4 cup fresh Cilantro
– 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
– 1 tsp Dijon mustard
– 3 tbsp EVOO
– 1/2 tsp ground cumin
– 1/2 tsp kosher salt + ground pepper

1. Make the quinoa – you want to rinse this really, really well so it gets all the bitter tasting dust off. Just when I think I’m finished rinsing, I always give it one more swish, because that dust is yuck. Boil the water and add the quinoa, cook according to package directions.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, put the arugula, the chopped onion and the garlic clove into a food processor and pulse until combined and chopped.

3. In a bigger bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, avocados and cooked quinoa.

4. Combine the lemons, sugar, dijon, cumin, kosher salt & pepper, mix to combine. Add the EVOO & shake it up again.

5. Pour the dressing and the arugula/onion blend on top of the quinoa chickpea mixture and stir well, then add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let everything combine.

Quinoa with Black Beans, Avocado, Tomatoes, Scallions & Mini Mozzarella with a Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

What do you make for a cardiothoracic surgeon and a journalist after watching open heart surgery on Valentine’s Day? This is what I came up with, and for someone who’s big on eating healthy (the surgeon) and someone who’d never tried quinoa before (the journalist), I think it was a pretty good pick. Quinoa is definitely my favorite grain – it’s an ancient source of protein and also high in iron, fiber & magnesium – and also, with its little pop of texture, it’s fun to eat. It goes well with just about everything, and has completely replaced rice in cooking for me at this point. Plus, heart-healthy avocados, tomatoes and scallions, fiber-rich organic black beans and a little mozz…yummo. This dish has a southwestern vibe but in a really clean, bright way. I love this.

 – 1 C. dry quinoa
– 2 C. chicken broth or water
– 1 can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
– ½ C. mini mozzarella balls (these just look cuter in the salad, otherwise dice up a larger mozzarella ball)
– 1 avocado, diced
– 1 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
– 3 scallions, sliced
– 2 limes, juiced
– Zest of 1 lime
– 4 tbsp. EVOO
– ½ tsp. cumin
– Handful of cilantro, chopped
– Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
1.       Cook quinoa. You have to really rinse it well, otherwise the “dust” that’s on it makes it bitter. I have a really fine mesh strainer that I just dump the uncooked quinoa in, then run water over it, swishing it around in the strainer, until the water runs clear.

2.       Once the quinoa is rinsed and the chicken broth (or water) is boiling, add quinoa to the water, then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and let the water incorporate into the quinoa, approx. 15 mins. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, still covered. Fluff with a fork.

3.       Meanwhile, dice the avocados and scallions, cut the tomatoes, and dry the mozzarella a little bit.

4.       Drain and rinse the black beans well.
5.       Make the dressing – in a mason jar, combine the lime juice, lime zest, cumin, salt & pepper. Mix to blend everything together in the acid of the lime juice before adding the EVOO. Add the EVOO and shake it all up.

6.       In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, mozz, scallions and avocado. Mix gently to blend.
7.       Add the dressing, and the cilantro, mix gently again. Serve, or cover and refrigerate to let flavors absorb into the quinoa.

8.       Make a mental note to take better care of your heart after watching someone have seven blockages cleared that morning (okay, that was just what I did).  For more information on heart health, visit

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad

Incredibly, I have never been to the Scranton Farmers’ Market until this week.  Holy crow, have I been missing out. Gorgeous produce, cheeses, meats,even flowers (!), all from local farms and farmers.

There’s really nothing better, food-wise, than farmers’ markets – supporting your community while being able to find out about what you’re eating and where it came from. I picked up some corn, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and basil, and decided to use a mix of red and white quinoa as a base for this salad. We ate it that day, then took it to Frontier Days, where it was delicious even cold.  The honey-lemon vinaigrette seems odd in theory, but adds a dimension of sweetness that adds to the overall flavors – a feta creaminess, a basil crispness, etc. This is a great end-of-summer dish to use up whatever vegetables you find at the farmers’ market (or, okay, the supermarket).

Ingredients (serves 6-8 as a side dish)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed really well
1/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
3 ears corn, cut off the cob
2 tomatoes, diced
2 zucchini, seeds removed (just drag a spoon down the center after you cut them in half) and quartered
vidalia onion, sliced
basil, julienned
2 garlic cloved, minced

Honey-Lemon Viniagrette:
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced 
kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Make the dressing – combine all the ingredients in a small mason jar, adding the honey last so the spices can absorb into the lemon juice. Shake it up and let it sit while you make the rest of the dish.
2. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if you want to make this completely vegetarian) to a boil. Rinse the quinoa really well – this is important, since the “dust” that collects on the outside of the quinoa is bitter and will ruin any dish you make if any of it remains. I have a really fine-woven strainer that I bought specifically for rinsing quinoa – otherwise it’s a total PITA trying to get the “dust” off it thoroughly.  Add quinoa to the boiling chicken broth, turn the heat down to medium low, and put a lid on it. Let cook until the broth is absorbed and the quinoa is soft and fluffy.
3. In a different saucepan, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon EVOO over medium high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the corn, zucchini, and onions, and a little salt/pepper.  Let cook about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the cooked quinoa and give it all a good stir.
4. Chop up 2 tomatoes, and add to the quinoa/veggie mixture.
Look at these Farmers’ Market tomatoes!!  Gorgeous.

4. Add feta, stir it all up so it gets melty and combines everything together nicely.  Then julienne some basil. 

Let’s julienne some basil!  First, clean some leaves, then make a little stack of them. Roll them tightly together like a cigar, then slice thinly from the top down to get perfectly ribboned basil. It’s kind of insane how amazing chopping basil makes your kitchen smell, every time.

5. Add dressing to the salad, mix well, then top with the julienned basil. Serve and enjoy.