Quinoa Salad keeps me out of trouble. Hello, my name is Amanda, and I am a carb addict. I am not one to sit down to grilled chicken and a green salad and call it dinner. Lunch, maybe. If I’m honest, I really want fresh ciabatta bread, toasty out of the oven, with a glossy bowl of good olive oil for dipping. Too frequently, I indulge my carb-aholic, starchy fantasies. However, in an effort to not buy jeans in a bigger size, we put Quinoa in place of Ciabatta on pretty regular basis. Quinoa is obviously still a carb, but its high protein content and all around better nutritional profile make it a far better choice and it satisfies my need for something to be on that plate to keep the grilled chicken and green salad company.
One of my favorite quinoa salads is inspired by a recipe from Jill and Jewels Elmore’s cookbook The Family Chef. If you are trying to clean up your eating act- pick up a copy. In case you need convincing that these girls know their stuff- they cook for Jennifer Aniston. Just saying…
Back to the kitchen. Most package directions call for a 2-1 ratio of water to quinoa, which practically turns it to mush. A better ratio is 1-1 or 1.5-1. I personally like 1 1/2 C water to 1 cup quinoa. You could also use the pasta method- cook it in plenty of water and drain off excess when done to your preference. If you are interested in why the package gives you wrong info – check it out here. Otherwise, you can take our word for it and get back to cooking.
First, rinse the quinoa-really well. I used to wonder exactly why and I found the answer on AncientGrains.com “Quinoa has a natural coating of saponins, a chemical compound that can be found in many different plant families (including some legumes and yucca.)* These saponins (so named for their ability to foam like soap) may exist to protect the plant against microbes and fungi as well as foraging animals, as their bitter taste deters other organisms from feeding off the plant. However, this bitter taste can also be evident to humans – and some people are very sensitive to the flavor saponins impart.”
Now that we know why- rinse and repeat.
Now, let’s gather up our cast of characters, shall we? Today, it’s fennel, shallot, garlic, lime & lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, arugula and grape tomatoes.
This salad is good warm, cold or served at room temperature. You really can’t go wrong. It’s also a great option for a side when you have dinner guests with gluten issues.
- 1 C Quinoa- rinsed WELL
- 1 1/2 C Water
- 1/2 fennel bulb, outer layer removed, finely diced- about 1/4 inch
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 C grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 C packed baby arugula
- 2 T toasted pine nuts
- zest of 1 lime
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- a few glugs good quality olive oil
- pinch kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Rinse the quinoa REALLY WELL in a fine mesh strainer.
- Place rinsed quinoa in a medium sauce pan with 1 1/2 C water and pinch of kosher salt.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook about 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed
- While the quinoa cooks, chop your fennel (don't forget to remove the outer layer- it is tough), shallot and garlic, halve the grape tomatoes, zest the lime and lemon. Put everything except the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.
- Combine a little olive oil with a squeeze of the lemon juice and a pinch a salt to make a quick vinaigrette and toss with the arugula and the tomatoes. Add arugula and tomatoes to the bowl.
- Next, toast your pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat. Do not walk away from them. If you do, They. Will. Burn. They are naughty that way, so watch 'em! Toss or stir them around frequently. When they start to slightly brown and they smell good and nutty, toss them in the mixing bowl.
- When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the veggies along with a squeeze of lemon juice and a few glugs of good olive oil. Combine and enjoy!
The possibilities for this quinoa salad are endless. You can add roasted veggies, nuts, dried berries, different herbs, whatever blows your skirt up. It’s also a spectacular way to transform last night’s leftovers into a not so ho-hum lunch. I do tend to get stuck in rut sometimes, so if you make this- please leave your version in the comments. We would love to try it!