Monday, January 23, 2012

30-Minute Meal: Chicken & Avocado Quinoa Salad

It's Monday.  Bleh.  The weekend's over, and it's time to dive into the week.  Today the sky is kind of overcast I think to match the mood of the general population.

Let's not get bogged down by dreary weather and wet shoes.  Eating a good meal with bright punches of citrus should cheer anybody up right?  Plus, this is pretty good for you.  Even more reason to feel better!
Don't want to cook a huge meal today?  Don't!  This comes together in about 30 minutes.  20 of those minutes are waiting for the quinoa to cook.  While it cooks, prep the rest of the ingredients and toss it together.  I recommend waiting the other 10 minutes for the flavors to meld together.  In the meantime, fix yourself a drink!

Simple ingredients:  Red onion, quinoa, avocado, jalapeño, and a rotisserie chicken.  If you have leftover chicken, use it!  Don't feel like cooking chicken?  Get a chicken from the deli and call it a day.  You can save yourself a step and get pre-rinsed quinoa.  Oh and you totally don't need 2 avocados.  One will suffice, unless you want a couple of nice slices of avocado over the top.  Your choice.
Follow the instructions for cooking quinoa on the package.  Basically it's 2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa.  Bring to a boil and cover.  Reduce to a simmer and let it cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the quinoa is cooked.  It takes about 20 minutes.
While the quinoa cooks, chop your jalapeño, chicken, and red onion.  If you want some heat, leave a few seeds and membranes.  If you don't want all the punch the red onion brings, you can cut it down from 3/4 c to 1/2 c.  Or use a yellow onion for a milder flavor.  Oh and you could totally make this meatless!  That might take a little extra work though if you want to add tofu or tempeh.  
Let's make a citrus vinaigrette!  We're using: orange, limes, cumin, black pepper, honey, olive oil, and sea salt.
Juice your fruit.  You'll have more than you need for the vinaigrette.  What to do with the leftovers?  I think you could make a bangin' margarita.  You'll also use a little of the juice to drizzle over the avocado to keep it from going brown.
Whisk in the cumin, black pepper, salt, and honey.
Now we're going to slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Whisk it the whole time you're adding the olive oil so that it emulsifies.  See how it doesn't look like the oil and acid (fruit juice) are completely separate?  That's what the constant whisking does.  Give it a taste to see if you need to adjust the salt or acid levels.  I ended up adding a touch more fruit juice and honey at the end with a vigorous whisking.
This is what the quinoa looks like when it's cooked.  Fluff it up with a fork and transfer it to a big bowl.
Stir in the jalapeño, chicken, and red onion.
Slice up the avocado.  This is something you want to do right before you add it or you risk having brown 'cado in yo' quinoa.  No bueno.  The easy way to slice an avocado is to score it (cut it without going through the skin) and scooping it out with a spoon.
Add the avocado and splash in a little of the fruit juice.  Toss it around and then get the urge to add feta.  Honestly, it's rare that I don't get the urge to add feta.  Such is life.
Ohhh close up.  Drizzle in about 1/4 c of the vinaigrette.  Remember, you can always add more if you want, but once it's in there you can't get it out.  
If you're a crazy person like me, add a couple of generous slices of avocado on top.  Please don't be afraid of the fat in avocados.  It's the good kind of fat your body needs in order to absorb nutrients from other foods.  So there.  It's a meal you can feel good about feeding yourself...and several other people because this makes quite a bit.  You can always cut down the proportions if you're not feeding a small army.  Seriously, I've been eating this over a few days and loving it.  It's filling without being heavy and full of flavor, y'all!

Chicken & Avocado Quinoa Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette (serves 4-6)

1 c quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
3/4 c red onion, diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 c chopped cooked chicken (leftover or from a rotisserie bird both work)
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 orange
1 tbs honey
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 c olive oil
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/4 c feta cheese
  • Prepare quinoa according to package instructions.  When cooked, fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
  • While quinoa cooks, prepare citrus vinaigrette.  Combine 1/4 c of the fruit juice with the honey, cumin, pepper, and salt.  Slowly stream in the olive oil, constantly whisking.  Taste the vinaigrette to check the level of acid and seasoning.  Adjust accordingly.  
  • Add the jalapeño, chicken, and red onion to the quinoa.  Toss to combine.  Add avocado and sprinkle in a few tablespoons of fruit juice.  Toss.  Finally, add feta and 1/4 c of the vinaigrette to start.  Let the salad stand 10 minutes before serving, drizzling on more vinaigrette if necessary.

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