Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quinoa, Garbanzo and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing

As much as I hate to admit it, some of the cheapest organic produce I can find comes from Sam's Club. The reason I feel so much shame is because I've developed a relationship with the farmers at the market, and believe they deserve my business. I would have to research more, but I assume Sam's Club has a greater carbon footprint with their produce. However, they have giant tubs of organic spinach for about $4, 5 lbs. of organic baby carrots for $5, and occasionally I'll spot some other organic goods, like apples and pears. I've read that when given the choice between organic and local, it's best to choose local. Spinach is #6 on the dirty dozen list, so I feel that choosing organic is more important than local in this case. But do you ever feel like the more you learn, the more torn you are? I'm so happy there's a wealth of information available, but it leaves me wondering if I'm making the best choice. 
I haven't yet read the Omnivore's dilemma, but have you? Does it touch on these issues? 

I found this recipe in the July issue of bon apetit magazine, and added it to my "to-make" list right away. Not only is it vegetarian, full of protein, cool and easy, it had a very interesting twist - smoked paprika! I absolutely love the smoky, sweet and interesting flavor of smoked paprika. It's definitely one of those spices that adds so much character and depth to a dish. I especially like to sneak it in any cumin/chili powder combination recipe. I had a hard time finding it a few years ago, so I bought a pound from Penzey's. Needless to say, I try to find recipes that use it up. A pound of Smoked Paprika goes a very, very long way! 

Keeping up with the in-season produce can be pretty obvious, it's what's available at the farmer's market, and what's at rock-bottom prices in the grocery store. However, if you're interested in learning more, I added a widget on the left side of the blog that shows you seasonal produce. You can use the drop down arrows to choose the state you live in, and the month you're looking for. Right now, avocados are in season here, so I added them to this dish, but kept everything else as written. 

This dish was fantastic when I had it for dinner, but I have to say the leftovers were possibly better! The ingredients had time to marinade together, the spinach wilted a bit more, and the feta softened a bit and melted right into the dish. 

VBS Tips and Trades:
-If you're interested in learning about the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15", go to this website, enter your email address and you can print off a small guide to take with you on your food shopping trips. I have it taped on the inside of my coupon carrier! 
-If you don't have sherry vinegar on hand, try using a squeeze of lemon juice to freshen up the dish a bit more.

Quinoa, Garbanzo and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing
slightly adapted from bon appetit, July 2010

1 c. quinoa, rinsed well
2 c. water
4 c. baby spinach leaves
1 15 oz. can chick peas
1 c. cubed English cucumber
2 heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 c. mint leaves, torn
1/2 c. crumbled feta 
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 avocado, diced

Bring water to a boil in a small stock pot, add quinoa.
Bring to a boil, turn heat to low. 
Cook for 12-16 minutes, until tender, set aside to cool.
Add spinach to a large bowl, top with quinoa, toss a bit and set aside to allow warm quinoa to wilt spinach.
In a small dish, whisk together vinegar, EVOO, salt, pepper and paprika.
Add chick peas, cucumber, tomatoes and mint to salad, toss well to combine.
Add crumbled feta and avocado, drizzle with dressing and gently toss.
Serve at room temperature immediately, or refrigerate until serving. 


Jon and Jessica said...

Omnivores Dilemma is a wonderful book, I highly recommend it! And it does lean towards local being the best choice. The Kind Diet and The China Study are great books about vegetarianism.

Jen said...

I have all of the ingredients for this in my fridge/pantry. I think I'll make it for dinner tonight and take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thank you for sharing!

Natalie said...

stupid question but...I have paprika in my pantry...same or different as smoked paprika?

Kelly said...

You know what's interesting, it actually may not have a bigger carbon footprint. I'm a dork so I am constanty reading about food ethics and food & the environment and actually one of the books makes the case that food miles are actually less significant than other factors when it comes to a food's carbon footprint (mostly because the amount of energy consumed by travel is small in comparison to some of the other factors of production. They also mentioned that because many big box retailers are buying in bulk, it can actually be more green from a transportation perspective than the farmers market, where the item # is low vs. the fuel, emissions, etc.

That said, I think it's harder to know if the organic farms are actually considering sustainable practices or just not using pesticides. I feel like it's so hard to tell and while labeling is good, it often doesn't give you everything you need to make an informed decision. Buying ethically is SO complicated.

Ashlee said...

Kelly - you are NOT a dork! I try to read as much as possible but sometimes I just think it's not possible to know everything! If you do read any books you especially find interested, definitely let me know!

Katie said... should definitely read Omnivore's Dilemna. It is so terrific and it really is very conscious about ethical eating. Michael Pollan does say that in general local can be better than organic and talks about some industrial organic farms he calls Big Organic which are not that much better than conventional farms. Anyway I agree with Kelly that there is just so much to think about. Sometimes my brain explodes.

But I am enjoying your blog, and I love hearing about how others are tackling the question about what to eat. Thanks! :)

Joanne said...

I try to go local whenever possible, however it's important to remember that just because a local vendor doesn't proclaim themselves to be organic it doesn't mean that they aren't. Sometimes there are all sorts of legal things that get in the way of them being able to say they're organic. (Even though they may actually be.) Gah. Not sure if that made sense.

Smoked paprika - delicious! Love this salad.

Tasha said...

This salad looks amazing- it has so many of my favorite ingredients. I will have to give it a try. I also wanted to let you know, I love the direction your blog has taken. The design looks great, and I'm enjoying the tips and information you're providing!

Shauna said...

I am always looking for new ides for lunch and I think this would be a great one. I may have to make it this week. Thanks!