February 21, 2013

Warm and Creamy Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Mint over Chopped Spinach

This creamy quinoa is the best of sweet and salty. Cardamom, mint, and dates add the sweet notes, while feta cheese, chickpeas, toasted nuts, and onions give it a savory balance. I loved serving this hot, velvety quinoa over finely diced spinach leaves... Giving it all a stir in my bowl brought the flavors together and gently wilted the spinach to the perfect consistency. 

Best yet, dinner was on the table in about 25 minutes. I'm looking forward to keeping this as a weeknight staple, swapping out the dates for dried cranberries, raisins, or currants, and interchanging different nuts, beans, and cheeses. Enjoy a big warm bowl as a respite from the work week and the winter cold!

Ingredients: serves 2
1/4 cup pine nuts or cashews
1 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock (vegetable for vegetarians)
1 cup water (+  more as needed)
6 pitted dates, chopped
2 T. cream cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup feta cheese (or goat cheese)
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
salt + pepper to taste

2 T. olive oil
2 lemon wedges or 2 t. fresh lemon juice
4 cups finely chopped curly leaf spinach

Directions: Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and toast the nuts until just golden and fragrant. Set aside. Turn heat down to medium low and melt the butter, then stir in the garlic and cardamom for one minute. Add the quinoa, chicken stock, and water. Cover and turn to a boil, then add the dates and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa has softened and a white germ is visible around the outsides.

Meanwhile, divide two cups each spinach in two bowls. Drizzle with 1 T. olive oil each and 1 lemon wedge or t. of lemon juice each.

Then, into the quinoa stir the the cream cheese, feta cheese, then the nuts, chickpeas, red onion, and mint. Allow to warm through thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve atop the spinach in the bowls.

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