When I was in law school, most of my meals were meat free. Not because of any personal beliefs or ideals. It was much more basic: meat is expensive, and I was poor.
Even before that, I was never a big meat eater. Especially red meat. I feel like it weighs me down.
Plus I'm really crap at cooking red meat... although I'm getting better.
And I can cook the hell out of a chicken breast. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Chicken is easy. You can add pretty much anything to it and make it work. (I said that in my Tim Gunn voice.)
But some nights, you just want something light. Light but filling. You know?
Ergo, Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa.
This dish was inspired by my friend Devon. She's a vegetarian, and I like to tease her with my recipes.
Quinoa is my new food love. If you are not familiar with it, it's a grain like crop. Like rice. Except it's not a grain. It's a seed. And it's chock full of good stuff, including lots of protein.
We like protein.
And chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), are also high in protein. Yay proteins! Chickpeas are a very meaty, filling bean. Fills you up and good for you. Win/win.
Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa with Balsamic Reduction
What you'll need:
1 bag frozen spinach
1 can chickpeas
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1. In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until vinegar thickens and coats back of spoon.
2. While your vinegar is simmering, cook your quinoa. Read the directions on your bag of quinoa. Some brands require that you soak your quinoa prior to cooking to remove the saponins. If your directions require this step, do not skip it. Otherwise, your quinoa will be bitter. Many brands treat the quinoa prior to packaging to remove the saponins, so you can skip this step. Every brand of quinoa I've used calls for the same liquid to quinoa ratio - 2:1. If you use 1/2 quinoa, you use 1 cup of liquid. The directions on the bag call for water. Substitute broth for water. If you want to make your meal herbivore friendly, use vegetable broth. If not, you can use chicken broth. This just gives your quinoa some extra flavor. So add your quinoa and broth to a pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed.
3. After you have 1 and 2 started, cook your spinach. If you read my first post, you know I'm a big fan of quick and easy. Therefore, I like to use steam in the bag vegetables. Including spinach. If you can't find steam in the bag spinach, most bags of frozen spinach have microwave cooking instructions. If you have the time (which I usually don't), you can steam or saute fresh spinach with some olive oil and garlic. I'm determined to do this on a weekend when I have more time. Because it sounds delish.
4. Drain and rinse your chickpeas.
5. Plate cooked quinoa, top with spinach and chickpeas. Drizzle your balsamic reduction over everything and prepare your taste buds for the orgasmic pleasure.
Okay fine. Maybe I embellished that last sentence. But this dish contains some of my favorite things. This girl gets excited over legumes.
Tips & Tricks:
I absolutely LOVE quinoa. It's incredibly versatile. I use in in place of rice and pasta in recipes.
If your grocery store sucks (like mine), you may not find canned chickpeas in the aisle with the rest of the beans. Check the ethnic food aisle. They'll definitely have them there. Chickpeas are delicious and can be eaten right out of the can without any further cooking. However, if you'd like a little extra something something, I'd suggest you roast your chickpeas.
1 can chickpeas (drained, rinsed, patted dry)
1 Tbls olive oil
seasonings of your choice (I suggest a little sea salt and garlic powder)
Stir together oil & seasonings in a medium bowl. Add chickpeas and toss until coated. Spread in a single, even layer in a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nice and crispy.
You could also try these sweet roasted chickpeas. Or if you're sauteing fresh spinach, you could toss your chickpeas in there also.
Tons of possibilities. If you try your own variations, please let me know in the comments.