For some reason, I always feel the need to preface a quinoa post by telling you how much I love quinoa.  And how much I love these types of salads.  So let’s get that out of the way, shall we?  I LOVE QUINOA!!!!  I LOVE THESE WHOLE GRAIN SALADS!

I was browsing through my Epicurious app on my new iPhone 4, and I quickly came across this recipe.  Instantly I added it to my favorites.  I knew I would be making this, because it combined so many fresh & seasonal vegetables.

Let me first begin by mentioning, this recipe tells you to use an extra-large bowl.  I quickly realized my extra-large bowl was NO WHERE NEAR BIG ENOUGH.  I ended up mixing & storing it in my large round cake carrier, using the domed lid as the bowl, and the flat bottom as the lid!  I kid you not.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t serve it in that!  I portioned some of it out into a smaller, more presentable bowl.)  You could easily halve this recipe for a smaller amount.

Once I got the salad mixed together, I didn’t have room in my fridge for the huge cake carrier, so I brought it to my downstairs neighbor’s fridge for storing.  I made her taste-teste it, and asked her opinion, because she loves quinoa salads as much as I do.  We both determined it definitely needed something to brighten it up.  It was good, and had potential, but it wasn’t quite there yet.  After some pondering, I determined it needed orange zest & orange juice.  So I made a touch more of the vinaigrette, and added in the zest of 1 large orange, and the juice of 1/2 a large orange.  After adding that to the salad, it really perked it up.  The extra flavoring from the orange, combined with letting the salad rest in the refrigerator overnight, really took a salad that upon first taste I thought “ehhhhh…”, to “mmmMMMMmmmmm!”  Everyone who ate some agreed it was definitely delicious.  So delicious in fact, it was devoured!  I was then “forced” to make it again in order to photograph it.  That was perfectly fine with me, because I could take it to a friends’ for dinner, as well as eat it for lunch many days in a row.  🙂

I can assure you, whether you make the whole recipe or halve it, you will not be disappointed.  This salad can easily serve as a vegetarian entree, as I ate it that way many days in a row.  There’s so much nutrition and color with the tomatoes, spinach, quinoa (I used red quinoa), cucumber, and feta.  Once I adapted the recipe by adding the orange juice and zest, it became a delicious salad with a touch of sweetness, a tang of vinaigrette, a refreshing hint of mint, savory saltiness from the feta, along with the crunch and substance of all the vegetables.  This is a salad I will turn to again and again.


Quinoa, Garbanzo, & Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing


1 1/2 cups quinoa (9 to 10 ounces), rinsed, drained (I used red quinoa, because it's what I happened to have on hand.)
4 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
2 15- to 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
1 3/4 cups 1/3-inch cubes unpeeled English hothouse cucumber
1 1-pint container multicolored baby heirloom tomatoes, halved (2 1/2 cups)
1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled feta cheese (about 7 ounces), divided
1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a large orange (or if using a small orange, go ahead and use all the juice)
zest of 1 orange


Place quinoa in large saucepan; add enough salted water to cover quinoa by 1 inch. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until quinoa is tender, 15 to 16 minutes. Drain. Chill until cool.

Chop spinach leaves, & mint. Halve tomatoes & cube the cucumber. Combine spinach leaves, garbanzos, cubed cucumber, halved tomatoes, mint leaves, and half of feta cheese in extra-large bowl. Add cooled quinoa and toss gently to blend.

Whisk vinegar, smoked paprika, orange zest & orange juice in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining feta over.

Let chill in refrigerator a minimum of 4 hours, or up to overnight, for flavors to combine, and spinach leaves to slightly soften.