With warm nights and busy schedules, this time of year is great for simple summer salads.  Each year I am on the lookout for new options to add to my recipe repertoire and I tend to come across at least one new recipe that makes me think, “Wow, how did I live without you in my life?!”  This past weekend I ran into (well, ate!) one of this year’s new favorites.

This simple bean and quinoa recipe is one that I immediately had to replicate (and modify) at home. My mother found it in an issue of Rachael Ray magazine and served it at a family cookout and I think it is a real winner. (As usual I had to change things up a bit:  My version of the recipe, which is below,  includes a variety of beans, feta cheese, fresh mint and lemon zest to give a bit more depth of flavor and to make it more of a meal instead of a side dish.  I also served it on a bed of mixed greens.) INGREDIENTS:
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed One 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (1 cup raw) 1 medium red onion, finely chopped ½ cup of feta cheese 2 bunches basil, stems discarded and leaves chopped 1 bunch of mint, stems discarded and leaves chopped Juice of 1 ½ lemons ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil A little lemon zest (about a teaspoon) Salt and pepper to taste DIRECTIONS: I cooked the quinoa as directed on the package, rinsing well as usual. Once I got the quinoa cooking on the stove, I rinsed my basil and mint and did a rough chop.  I then placed the herbs in a large bowl with the kidney beans, chickpeas, feta and chopped red onion. In a small separate bowl I juiced my two lemons and added in a bit of zest for an extra kick; I then whisked in the olive oil and the dressing was ready to go. Once the quinoa was ready I combined all the ingredients in the large bowl, poured the dressing over the salad and served everything on a bed of greens. Note:  The beans, quinoa and cheese offer plenty of protein as a main dish, but this recipe is also excellent as a side dish with either grilled chicken or shrimp.—Rachel

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