Friday, July 17, 2015

Chicken Quinoa Salad with Nectarine Vinaigrette

Last Year's Post: 33 Recipes for Hot Summer Days
Two Years Ago:  Shrimp Fried Rice

This is a very healthy and refreshing salad that's perfect for summer with cool cucumber, sweet cantaloupe and a beautiful fresh nectarine vinaigrette.  I had some leftover roasted chicken so I added it, but you could easily leave it out for a very satisfying vegetarian meal because the quinoa and beans are both excellent sources of protein.  At the risk of sounding trendy I would even call this a power salad due to all the healthy ingredients and proteins.

The ingredients are flexible:  use whatever beans you prefer, switch the cantaloupe for another honeydew or watermelon, and use a different grain other than quinoa if you have one on hand.  I used red quinoa just because I like the color, but white quinoa is more readily available and tastes just about the same.  If you want to try red quinoa, it's usually available in health food stores.

I've also been trying to incorporate more beans into our diet lately so I was inspired to cook some tepary beans for this salad, but you can certainly used canned beans as a faster alternative.  And while you're at it, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the deli and some already cut-up melon chunks in produce - then all you have to do is cook some quinoa and do a little prep work.  Quinoa holds well in the refrigerator so you can make it in advance.  I initially thought the nectarine vinaigrette would lose freshness, but it held up very well for the following three days while we had leftovers for lunch.

printable recipe
Chicken Quinoa Salad with Nectarine Vinaigrette
Serves 4

For the vinaigrette:
1 nectarine, pitted and chopped (removing the skin is optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup canola oil (or other light oil)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt

For the salad:
2 teaspoons canola oil
½ cup uncooked red or white quinoa
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
2 cups cooked beans (your favorite), drained and rinsed
1 cup toasted pepitas (or other nuts of your choice)
3 cups chopped baby arugula
2 cups seeded chopped English cucumber
2 cups cantaloupe cut into small cubes (or honeydew or watermelon)

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the nectarine pieces and apple cider vinegar in a blender and puree until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl or jar and add oil, pepper and salt.  Whisk or shake to combine.  Set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the quinoa and toast, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes.  Add one cup of water and stir, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for 12-14 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain any water still remaining. 

Arrange the all the salad ingredients in a pretty pattern in shallow bowls or plates.  Drizzle the nectarine vinaigrette over all or serve on the side.

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