I bought the quinoa from the bulk bins at Whole Foods as soon as I read the recipe for the warm quinoa and chicken salad on Dishing Up Delights two months ago. I bought the sealed container of feta a month ago. And I bought a big bunch of green chard two and half weeks ago with the specific expectation that I would use it for the dish that coming Monday.
But then my throat starting doing that sore thing it does when I'm on the verge of disease. And neither quinoa nor the word "salad" sounded particularly appetizing. At all. I could practically feel the scrape of the nutty grain sliding down my inflamed esophagus. I couldn't possibly eat the salad that night. I needed something comforting -- something brothy and soothing. Something like my good ole standby, Chicken Marsala. So I threw caution to the slight So Cal breeze, made a quick dash to my local Trader Joe's for a bottle of Columbo dry Marsala wine, and found a new application for my defrosted chicken breast. The quinoa recipe would have to wait. Again.
A week passed while I battled the almost disease with oranges and Zicam. And then it was Easter weekend and I found myself gorging on chocolate cake and short ribs and egg casserole and blueberry muffins and pasta with spicy clam sauce. And then I spent all last week looking at apartments and searching for a new home. I couldn't possibly take the pressure of making a new recipe on top of the pressure of figuring out my living situation too! It was too much! Chicken Marsala, meatless meatballs and frozen pizza ruled over my week.
But then things settled down. I found an apartment (with an appropriately sized kitchen with gorgeous lighting for picture-taking), the almost disease became a distant memory, and the temperature in LA did what it's supposed to do (ie. stay really hot). The 85 degree heat wave this past Saturday made it the perfect day for a salad. Even a warm one.
Armed with a fresh bunch of green chard (my new go-to sub for spinach), a new package of extra lean chicken breasts from Gelson's, and some other odds and ends, I finally made my way with Esi's adaptation of Martha Stewart's recipe for the warm quinoa, spinach and shitake salad. I did all sorts of funky things to it -- reducing the amount of olive oil to the scantest amount possible, adding a bit of lemon juice to balance out the vinegar, cooking the quinoa with chicken broth and some minced shallots because I have a mild obsession with the sweet onion, and letting my green chard cook completely before serving. The result was a delicious and healthy meal that was well worth the two month wait. So good in fact, that immediately after I finished eating it, I logged onto Gmail to send Esi a message with the subject line "YUM."
Warm Quinoa, Green Chard, Shiitake, and Chicken Salad
Loosely based on Esi's/Dishing Up Delights adaptation of Martha Stewart's recipe
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 chicken breast, sliced
2 tablespoons crumpled feta cheese
4 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cups green chard, washed and torn into manageable pieces
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pepper, salt, to taste
In a small bowl whisk together 1 teaspoon olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In another bowl, pour half the dressing over sliced chicken breast -- set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Saute shallot until slightly translucent, and then add quinoa. Toast for 1-2 minutes before adding chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (approximately 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, cook the chicken in a medium sized skillet. When cooked through, toss in Shiitake mushrooms and chard (or spinach) until just tender/wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add quinoa and dressing to the pan, and toss together until well incorporated. Top with feta and serve immediately.