Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Walnuts and Mint

Food genius Ian Knauer has the recipe for a healthy, protein-packed dinner.

Quinoa salad
Salads aren't filling, you say? Try one made with protein-packed quinoa. (Photo: Ian Knauer)
Ian Knauer worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

I’ve never run a marathon, nor do I ever want to. It’s not that the physical feat seems daunting (although it does, a little) it’s that I just know how bored I get when I run. After mile 3, or so, my mind starts to wander. I’d guess that somewhere around mile 20, I’d fall asleep or have to stop and find another activity.

Luckily for athletes like me with undiagnosed cases of ADHD there are other less dull sporting events. This Sunday (Mother’s Day - don’t worry Mom, I’ve got something special planned for you after the event) I’ll be joining some friends to complete a Tough Mudder obstacle course. It’s a 10- to 12-mile run through some really hard-core, life-threatening obstacles. It’s not the sort of thing they recommend anyone just up and do. So, I’ve been training for it. Hard.

So hard that my appetite has almost doubled. I’m craving tons of protein and lots of fiber and carbs to accompany it. I am only temporarily sated, too, unless I eat a certain grain that has become my new best friend: quinoa.

This grain is essentially a superfood. It’s 18 percent protein (and it’s a complete protein like meat, eggs, dairy so it contains amino acids which help build muscle), plus it’s high in fiber and vitamins too. It’s far cheaper than meat -- and of course, like, a million times more sustainable. It has been considered by NASA as a possible foodstuff for long duration human occupied spaceflights. Better yet, for all of you who can’t eat gluten, it doesn’t have any.

Oh, yeah, it also tastes good. Especially when you use this recipe for it. (A note to the especially frugal cook who still demands a lot of flavor -- in leu of stock, this recipe blanches the vegetables in the quinoa-cooking liquid before the grain is added. The result is extra -- and free -- veggie flavor added to the salad.)

Quinoa Spring Vegetable Salad with Walnuts and Mint

Serves 6 (or 4 hungry athletes)

Ingredients

8 oz snap peas

1 lb asparagus, trimmed

12 oz quinoa

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1/2 cup mint leaves

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch snap peas and until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water. Bring water back to a boil. Remove tips from asparagus, then cut stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Blanch asparagus until bright green and tender, 2 to 3 minutes, transferring with a slotted spoon to water with snap peas. Half snap peas diagonally, if desired.

Bring water back to a boil and whisk in quinoa. Boil until quinoa is tender, 16 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Stir in walnuts and cook, stirring, until nuts are golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute more. Transfer nut-garlic oil to a large serving bowl. Whisk in vinegar, salt, pepper, reserved vegetables and quinoa, tossing to combine, then stir in mint. Serve warm or and room temperature.

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