Quinoa, Farro and Chickpea Salad with Field Greens, Fall Vegetables and a Pumpkin seed-Mint Pesto Vinaigrette
Sure, it likely comes from a well meaning place, but how many times have we all heard that one? In case someone reading this is thinking, “well, where do you get your protein?” Here’s a super quick primer to help you out:
Protein is a nutrient found in food that is composed of many amino acids joined together. They are vital for the support, creation and maintenance of cells, tissues and organs of your body. Fortunately, protein is found in almost everything you eat. The best sources for people who avoid meat are legumes and grains, but even the lowly stalk of celery has some protein. With a varied diet, it is almost impossible to not get ample protein. “But I’ve heard that vegetables are not a complete protein, isn’t that important?” We do need to get a certain variety of amino acids from our food. Some grains and legumes have all the amino acids too, like Quinoa and Soy, but others have some and not others. Fruits and vegetables can vary widely in which amino acids and what quantities of them they have but by eating even a moderate variety of plant foods you will find you can meet those protein needs pretty easily.
We, personally, don’t give our protein needs a second thought. We simply enjoy a nice variety of plant foods. As a bonus, we get to enjoy some great flavour and texture combinations, too. Take this salad for instance (smooth transition, I know). We combined quinoa, farro and chickpeas to make a base for the salad, topped it with fresh greens and a nice assortment of fall vegetables – fennel, beets, zucchini, cucumber and bean sprouts – finishing it all off with an I-can-almost-smell-the-Mediterranean-sea-air fresh mint and toasted pumpkinseed pesto vinaigrette. All together, an easy 20-25 grams (30-50% of our daily requirements) of good quality, plant-based, cruelty-free protein (You knew we had to get all ‘vegan-y’ at some point).
- ½ cup white quinoa
- 1 cup water
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup pearled Farro (unpearled is fine too, it will just take longer to cook)
- 2 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 19oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ medium onion, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 wedges
- 1 small carrot, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 small rib celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups mixed lettuces
- ½ cup julienned beets, rinsed well in cold water
- ½ cup julienned fennel
- ½ cup julienned zucchini
- ½ cup thinly sliced cucumber rounds, from around 1 Persian cucumber
- ½ cup bean sprouts, ends trimmed
- 2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup lightly packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
- Juice of 1 medium lemon, 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer gently until the quinoa is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, around 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest, covered for another 5 minutes to finish cooking.
- Turn it out in to a bowl, separating the grains with a fork.
- Combine the farro, water and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer gently until the farro is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, around 25 for pearled farro, 35 minutes for unpearled. Turn off the heat and let it rest, covered for another 5 minutes to finish cooking.
- Turn it out in to the same bowl as the quinoa.
- Combine the drained chickpeas, vegetables and salt in a medium pot. Add enough water to cover everything by about half an inch. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are quite tender. Some canned varieties may take 30 minutes to tenderize. Allow to cool in their liquid.
- You will need about a cup for this recipe. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add them to the quinoa and farro.
- Here’s a bonus recipe for you: Take the remaining chickpeas, vegetables and water from the pot and pulse them in a food processor or blender until almost pureed. You’ll have a super tasty soup for another meal!
- Combine all of the vegetables except the greens in a bowl, mixing them well. Add a few drops of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- In a small pan, toast the pumpkinseeds over medium heat until they are well toasted. Transfer them to a small bowl to cool.
- In the bowl of a mortar, crush the garlic to a paste with the pestle and a little pinch of salt. Add the mint and about a tablespoon of the oil and pound it to a paste (the oil will help keep the colour from fading and preserve the mint’s flavour).
- Add the pumpkinseeds and reduce them to a chunky paste.
- Stir in the lemon juice followed by the remaining olive oil. Check the seasoning and add a little salt and pepper as needed.
- On each plate, make a base of the mixed quinoa, farro and chickpeas.
- Top it with about a cup of mixed greens that you’ve tossed in a few drops of olive oil
- Place a pile of the vegetables on top of the greens.
- Drizzle some of the dressing over top of the vegetables and around some of the uncovered area of the plate between the grains and the plate rim.
- Eat up!