An Invitation to Spring: Rainbow Quinoa with Orange, Golden Beets, Chickpeas, and Spring Greens

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Spring greens. And a little wine.

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I am still kicking myself for forgetting to toss in the shelled pistachios. They were a pleasantly crunchy and color-coordinated addition at the end, but they didn’t quite make it to the photo-shoot. This dish happened a few weeks ago, just as the Union Square Greenmarket was revving its engine for Spring. I will not cry about how today is April 30 and I had to dig my gloves and winter sweaters back out of the closet, where I had apprehensively stored them when I spotted the first ramp of the season. Alas, I took my beautiful organic basil from Two Guys from Woodbridge up to Connecticut and set to work on a flavorful, healthy quinoa dish. My idea was to make it as appealing to the eyes as it is to my taste buds, and I think this mission was accomplished- if I do say so myself.

What I love about this dish is that it can be made a day or two in advance if you are expecting a few friends over for a spring lunch or dinner, and it packs up perfectly in the fridge so that you can spoon out a serving in the after-days for quick lunches and sides. Quinoa is one of the grandest ‘add anything’ bases. There are so few things that you cannot mix into this dish. Basil gives it a fresh scent and a springlike flavor, the raw spinach wilts naturally with the lemon and orange juices, the yellow beets are perfectly tender but still give you something to chew, the scallions give that onion-y kick, garlic for even more flavor,and the chickpeas offer a meatier texture. The orange segments need not be perfect; in fact, the less perfect they are, the more their juices extract. Each ingredient packs a punch of its own unique nutrients, and of course quinoa, the ingredient of 2014, is a superstar on its own as the only grain that can be described as a complete protein.

Ingredients (for about 8 servings):

1 12-oz box (Ancient Harvest) Quinoa, rinsed and cooked

Handful or two of organic spinach

3 or 4 golden beets, scrubbed

1 can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed

Zest of 1 orange, grated or minced

2 oranges, segmented

2 or 3 scallions, diced

A few cloves of garlic, minced (however many you prefer)

Handful fresh basil

Lemon juice, glug of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

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The quinoa can be made a day or two ahead. Store it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.

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I didn’t have a zester on hand so I just grated and diced the orange.

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Spring greens make me happy. Fresh scallion, parsley, and basil.

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Local spinach

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Assembly could not be simpler. Toss the quinoa with the grated orange, chickpeas, diced scallion, and orange segments. Add the spinach leaves and herbs at the end.

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Sweet potatoes were not part of this recipe but I took advantage of the oven being on to roast a few. In fact, moon-shaped sweet potatoes would go quite nicely in this dish.

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I learned from an Italian to never cut your basil lest you like black herbs. Tear it like a piece of paper.

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Lots of garlic for lots of flavor and aroma. Garlic is a power-horse of phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Among other uses, it has been proven to reduce blood pressure; by releasing nitric oxide, the garlic decreases blood vessel stiffness.

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Scrub the outside of the beets with a wet paper towel. Do not run them under the water; it takes away from their flavor. Then drizzle them with olive oil and toss on a pinch of black pepper. Wrap them in tin foil or place them in a small baking dish covered with foil and roast for about an hour, or until you can pierce your fork through the beet and the fork comes out clean.

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Bella golden beets

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Just imagine that the green pistachios are in this shot as well 🙂

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A glug of really good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a squeeze of leftover orange should be enough to give this dish plenty of moisture.

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