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How to Become a Guinea Pig and Spinach Pesto, Quinoa and Gorgonzola Salad

August 26, 2011 · 15 comments

in Gluten Free,Salad,Vegetarian

quinoa pesto and gorgonzola salad on sasasunakku

I’ve been feeling a bit like a guinea pig lately. Don’t worry, Peruvians have not been trying to eat me, it’s just that we’ve been doing a lot of experiments on ourselves at school. The most challenging has been one where we were divided into two groups and half of us were assigned to a diet high in saturated fat while the rest of us were on polyunsaturated fat. The other involved pricking my finger with a piece of metal repeatedly and bleeding on a bit of gauze but we won’t go into that because this is a family friendly blog we have here.

broad beans image on sasasunakku

Gentle Reader, do you know how much of my total caloric intake was from fat calories? 50%. I was obliged to reduce it 30%, most of which had to be polyunsaturated fat. Which is when I realised butter and chocolate do not constitute one of the main food groups (why didn’t you guys tell me that before I started nutrition school!?)

sliced radishes and courgette on sasasunakku

But I swear the rest of my diet is healthy! Just look at this salad. I made it just after I visited the town of Gorgonzola and came back laden with mouldy cheese but any cheese, indeed no cheese would work too. Pesto made with things other than basil I tell you, it’s the way of the future.

spinach pesto image on sasasunakku

I have to go now and do something called a Lineweaver-Burk plot which I’m fairly sure isn’t even a thing but a special form of torture devised by my biochemistry teacher to mess with our heads but it’s ok – it’s the last day of the polyunsaturated fats diet and I have a blue cheese sandwich and some white chocolate in my bag for after the blood test. And some broccoli too, of course.

What’s messing with your heads at the moment? Tell aunty Sasa.

spinach pesto salad image on sasasunakku

Quinoa, Spinach and Cashew Pesto and Gorgonzola Salad

This is more of a suggestion salad – you could easily use cous cous or bulghur wheat for the grain, and cooked broccoli or some other leaf for the greens in the pesto or other nuts or other cheese. I was inspired by Sara’s broccoli pesto salad on Sprouted Kitchen.

50 grams cashew nuts plus a few for garnish

1 clove garlic

40 ml oil

Juice of half a lemon


170 grams spinach plus a handful for garnish, washed and stemmed (stemmed I said, not steamed!)

1.5 cups quinoa, soaked for 15 minutes, rinsed and drained well

30 grams Gorgonzola or other blue cheese

Half a zucchini, thinly sliced 4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

Broad beans, steamed and peeled (you could use frozen ones, or even steamed edamame here)

Green beans, blanched, plunged quickly into iced water and drained

Whatsoever else your little hearts desire

Put the quinoa and 2.5 cups water in a pot. Bring to the boil and immediately lower to a bare simmer. Cover tightly and cook a further 30 minutes, then leave to cool.

Combine the first amount of cashews, garlic, oil, lemon juice, first amount of spinach and salt in a food processor and process until mostly smooth. Taste for salt, you’ll want quite a bit, it’s got to season the grains, remember.

Mix the pesto through the quinoa well.

Put some of the spinach on a plate and top with the pesto-y quinoa, then the radish, cheese, zucchini, beans and broad beans and remaining cashew nuts.

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hungryandfrozen August 26, 2011 at 7:34 am

Oh my. I’m not sure what sounds more terrifying about this study, the constant letting of blood or the shunning of saturated fat!

I made quinoa last night actually, turned it into a kind of salad with all sorts of bits and pieces in it. No gorgonzola though, unfortunately – the cheese that is almost as fun to say as it is to eat.

Alessandra August 26, 2011 at 11:12 am

Ouch! Maybe your teacher is writing his/her own thesis on you guys! It wouldn’t be a first!
Well, I think that most people today are eating too much fat, mostly because they think that fat is protein, and because some fat is ‘hidden’.

I love the salad and I love gorgonzola! Actually, gorgonzola is one of the fattest cheeses around, so it is good to have little, and served with lots of veggies and grains. My problem is when I go to Italy, for the first week I eat so much cheese (especially gorgonzola, or a deadly delicious mix which is layers of gorgonzola alternated with layers of mascarpone, i.e. fat with more fat!). And usually exactly one week after my arrival there I get a huge spot on my face, and then I have to be careful. Or try to.


Time for a Little Something August 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Wow Sasa, this looks beautiful. Especially the gorgonzola, mmmmmm.
And I LOVE radishes! Have eaten them since I was a tiny dot and my granddad introduced me to them. Best munching vege for tiny hands.
Lovely salad!

sakura August 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Gambatterune! I confess I’m still a little afraid of blue cheese. I’ve had stilton with crackers which was rather nice but haven’t gone beyond camembert in the stinkiness stakes. But your salad looks so oishiso I may have to give it a try!

Marietta August 27, 2011 at 12:20 am

Yeah!! New topic!
This looks yummie although I just had Chinese – lots of it, ice-cream and two beers so I feel so full I can’t even breathe but…this looks beautiful and yummie. Unfortunately I am not much of a talented cook so I wont be making most probably… think I only know how to make 5-6 dishes (half of it pasta :P) so I should REALLY try to try new dishes but…

What’s on my mind lately? How small the world is, yet how big ..high enough to not be easily able to meet with friends and family who are all over the world…

Kocinera August 27, 2011 at 9:35 am

Woah, your teachers sure are making sure you’re dedicated! hehehe At first, a diet high in yummy fats sounds great, but I bet it gets old pretty quick. A nice balance with delicious, gorgonzola-y salads sounds delightful.

What’s messing with my head is school, man! This past week, all of my fall semester classes began and I started a new job as well, so things have been very, very busy. Good luck with your classes, fellow college student! :D

amber August 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

You are truly sacrificing yourself for your study! :-/ Uni is messing with my head too. Although, I don’t have to let any blood, so…

Nic@diningwithastud August 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

This looks so delicious and fresh :) love the quinoa!!!

shaz August 28, 2011 at 12:47 am

“Don’t worry, Peruvians have not been trying to eat me”. Pure gold! I started snorting when I read this, been missing your posts aunty Sasa ;P I did a biology major at uni, and we had to finger prick ourselves and each other. That took real trust that did. We also had to take samples of….never mind, not very food blog friendly! Sounds like you’re having fun anyway even if they are trying to deprive you of fat. The salad looks perfect for spring.

Sasa September 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

They’re not strictly trying to deprive me of fat per se, more just saturated fat ><

Katie@Cozydelicious August 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

I love salads with just enough grain to coat the green thigs! Almost like the grain is part of the dressing… and with pesto too, so perfect!

Eva September 2, 2011 at 5:10 am

Lord, if I ever had to keep track of my diet it would probably come out somewhere around 50% fat too, I imagine– but I’m pretty content with my vegetables and ice cream diet.
Relearning the grocery store is screwing with my head (I recently moved countries, too), as is trying to understand the eating paradigm here. I just moved to Brazil, and one of the basic food stuffs is farofa, which is coarse-ground yuca flour sauteed in butter. In the rest of S.America, yuca is considered delicious but terrible for you…here it’s as common as rice and beans, as in like, eat your farofa. Weird, right? What do nutritionists say?

Sasa September 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Well, I’m not sure what yucca contains nutritionally but greens are usually good…not too sure about the butter though – might be better to use an unsaturated fat.

Suzy September 8, 2011 at 5:24 am

Is this for your nutritionist degree? Sounds intense. But by experimenting on yourself, you will certainly never forget it.
PS: go see Crazy, Stupid, Love. It features Ryan Gosling with a tan and muscles. Remember he was in that movie with the blow up doll we both thought was in Finnish but was actually in English?

Adelaida September 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Quinoa is amazing. I live in Chile and it´s easy to find. You can have it either sweet or savory, my favorite is “quinoto”, a risotto made with quinoa.

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