lunchbox life: two bean salad with quinoa, chicken, arugula, and pears

 

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I am thrilled about this week’s lunchbox life, mostly because it was a true on-the-fly cooking experience that turned out visually appealing, nutritious, and full of flavor. This salad is an ode to the end of summer, and even though we in Georgia have weeks to go before we see a leaf turn red or brown, now is that time that we realize the time sensitivity of all of our delicious summer produce. Creativity wasn’t hard to come by with this week’s CSA box; when I saw the pink-eyed purple hull peas and the fresh green beans, I immediately thought, “oooh, I’ve never done a 3-bean salad on the blog before!,” but then I realized that I just had two instead of three. I decided to sub in some tri-color quinoa from the pantry to round out the salad. Then I remembered that we had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so I defrosted two, threw them in the oven with some salt, pepper, and paprika, then diced it up and threw it in the bowl. I noticed the hearty and peppery arugula in my CSA box, so I took off the stems and tossed the leaves in the bowl. I also noticed two beautiful green pears and just knew that they’d work perfectly in this salad for a slight sweetness and brightness, but then I dismissed the idea because I didn’t think they’d last all week in the salad until I decided to make apple cider vinegar the primary liquid in my dressing. ACV is a health juggernaut, but it’s also a natural preservative. I made my dressing and included some Indian spices, so then I grabbed some extra cilantro from my refrigerator and topped the bowl with that. After tossing everything together with the dressing, I was so pleased with the way this turned out! I would love to recreate it and take it to a party because it’s so easy on the eyes. I paired this salad with some cantaloupe from, you guessed it: my CSA box. I’ll be so sad when I can’t get this much local fruit when the cooler weather comes, so for now we’ll just have to appreciate and savor every piece we get!

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Two Bean Salad with Quinoa, Chicken, Arugula, and Pears

Serves 6-8

2 large chicken breasts, baked and cubed

2 cups tricolor quinoa

2 cups fresh green beans, tips removed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

2 cups fresh pink eyed (purple hull) peas, but you could also use black-eyed peas or lady peas

3 cups arugula, stems removed and hand-torn

2 firm Bartlett pears, cut into cubes

1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro

for the dressing:

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Place the peas and beans in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low at place the lid on the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, then drain the peas and beans and place them in a large bowl. Add the arugula and toss to combine so that the arugula wilts slightly, then add the chicken, quinoa, pears, and cilantro and toss.  In a small jar, combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously, then pour over the large bowl and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

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