I always get excited when spring starts popping up, and it’s not just because we actually get more sunlight here in the Pacific NW. I get excited because I automatically eat better. I adore all the summer fruits; I love picking berries, and summer salads are the best! Olive oil and vinegar tastes good on everything, and everyone automatically feels skinnier anyway without all those bulky sweaters and coats, don’t they?

In honor of the coming warm weather, I’m already breaking out my summer recipes. This one was originally in Shape magazine a while back. (In May 2006, I believe.) It’s light and tasty. Quinoa is an amazing grain: it is chock-full of protein and pretty low on calories to boot. It works well as a substitute for couscous, bulgur, rice, etc, and it’s pretty cheap to buy at Trader Joe’s. (It can be incredibly expensive elsewhere, so be sure to comparison shop.) Equally important: WASH IT. You have to get the bitter coat off of it.

Quinoa Caprese
1 cup quinoa
14 oz. chicken or veggie broth
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ounces fresh mozarella, diced (or the mozzarella balls, cut in half)
1 cup torn basil leaves2
1/2 tablespoons lemon juice1
1/4 tablespoon garlic oil (OR heat some olive oil with smashed garlic cloves in it for a few minutes)
salt and pepper

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly (IMPORTANT, especially if the quinoa isn’t prewashed)
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce heat and simmer about 12-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. The quinoa should be tender. Transfer to a large bowl, let it cool down to room temperature.
Stir the cherry tomatoes, basil, and mozarella into the quinoa.
With a whisk or fork beat the lemon juice and oil together. Pour over the quinoa and toss well. Season to taste.

You can serve this over some spinach leaves; arugula would work, too. I like it without, too!