Quinoa Salad with Bacon and Lemon Vinaigrette

I love cookbooks and I have an eclectic mix which I have collected over the years as gifts or ones I purchased.  My husband and kids all know that if they’re in doubt as to what to get me for Christmas or birthdays…a cookbook will be happily received!  I like the ones that are unique, have gorgeous photos or colorful illustrations, and of course the recipes have to be inspiring and not too difficult to make – the easier the better.  My son gave me Home Made Winter for Christmas and I saw it in a store but I hesitated purchasing it – a good thing!  This is the first recipe I earmarked and there are more to try.  Yum!

Quinoa is my favorite ancient grain.  I like it so much I’ve made it here, here, here, and here! Its use is endless and the fact that it comes in white, red, black can make for a colorful dish.  I bought a rainbow mixture (white, black and red) and used it for this recipe.  Nutritionally there isn’t any difference between the colors although the darker quinoa will have a nuttier taste than the white.  Click here to view 8 health benefits of quinoa.

Serves 2 as a main
adapted from Home Made Winter

6 baby leeks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt 2/3 cup (100 g) quinoa, well rinsed
5 ounces (150 g) thinly sliced bacon
2 to 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 handfuls of baby spinach or arugula

juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon honey or agave
1/3 cup (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (75 ml) grapeseed oil or other light oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the leeks diagonally into 1/2-inch (1.5-cm) pieces. Rinse them thoroughly, drain well, then fry them in the oil in a sauté pan or wok over medium heat until soft, stirring constantly.  Remove onto a plate and let cool.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and stir in the quinoa.  Cook for 10 minutes on low heat.  After 10 minutes immediately drain the quinoa and rinse it with cold water to halt further cooking – drain thoroughly.  Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel.

In a medium bowl, combine the leeks with the quinoa and poppy seeds.  For the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne, then whisk in the oils in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the leek mixture. Arrange spinach or arugula in a big bowl. Add the leek and quinoa mixture and crumble the bacon on top.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The texture in this dish is awesome!  I love all the crunchy bits from the poppy seeds and quinoa.  A salad I will make again, that’s for sure.  Enjoy!