Friday, February 22, 2013

Warm Mediterranean Quinoa Salad With Sweet Corn, Beans and Basil

This deliciously light but satisfying vegetarian meal relies on some of my favorite Mediterranean and Thai flavors. Cannellini beans are creamy and substantial. A medley of tender-crisp bell peppers and zucchini provides contrasting tastes and textures. Sun dried tomatoes and corn lend their subtle sweetness. A fiery green chili pepper wakes up the palate. Quinoa adds additional protein. A flurry of fresh Thai basil and lemon finishes everything off with unexpected sparkle. This is the kind of vegetarian eating that will leave you feeling nourished and satiated.

Warm Quinoa Salad Recipe

Some Notes:

If you cannot find oil packed sun dried tomatoes, use the dry ones. The dry kind must be reconstituted in hot water. Instead of white beans, chickpeas will work too. All or part of a jalapeno chili pepper or a tiny Thai bird's eye pepper is a good choice to use in this recipe. This salad is also delicious tossed into pasta.

Rapunzel No Salt Vegan Vegetable Bouillon cubes can be found online and at Whole Foods. When I don't have the energy or will to make my own, I turn to this brand. I love this product. It's clean and pure tasting. I keep an endless supply of it and use it as the base for many of my soups and stews. Here's the link: You can also cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth of your choice. Make sure it's one that you'd sip on its own.

My Lebanese grandmother always had pita bread on the table at dinnertime. I like serving bread with meals too. It makes me happy and content. Warm whole wheat or regular pita bread rounds out this meal. Good fruity olive oil, lemon wedges and quality crumbled feta cheese for serving is a good idea too.

Serves 4-6 as a main course with pita and crumbled feta or Parmesan cheese.

You'll Need:
  • 2 bell peppers, diced. You pick the color. I used green and red.
  • 4 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced. I use a microplane grater to grate the garlic.
  • 1 small green chili pepper, minced (optional) I use a Thai bird chili pepper.
  • A handful of freshly chopped basil. I used Thai basil.
  • 1/2 cup of diced sun dried tomatoes. I used Trader Joe's oil packed brand.
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, defrosted (optional but good)
  • 1-2 lemons, zest one and reserve the zest
  • 1 15-16 oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed 
  • 4 Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon Cubes (see notes) 
  • Olive oil for cooking and drizzling
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • Serving Suggestions: toasted pine nuts, toasted slivered almonds, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, fresh warm pita, crusty bread, olive oil, lemon wedges 

The Rundown:

Rinse 2 cups of quinoa. Cook it with 4 cups of water, a pinch of salt and 4 Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon Cubes. Stir to combine the bouillon with the water once it starts to boil. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions until tender. Set aside.

Saute the bell peppers and the chili pepper until somewhat soft in a large skillet with a pinch of salt and some olive oil. Add the zucchini and a pinch more salt. Saute the zucchini until tender-crisp. The vegetables should not be cooked down too much. They should still have some bite and vibrancy. Add the minced garlic, lemon zest, cannellini beans, corn, sun dried tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Warm everything through.

Toss the vegetable and bean mixture with the cooked quinoa or serve over the quinoa. Finish with freshly chopped basil, a squeeze of lemon and any of the serving suggestions.

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