Monday, February 28, 2011

Quinoa - the golden grain

Well, technically, it's a seed. A very tasty, nutty seed. And, unlike rice, kind of hard to burn and make too dry or overdress because it literally absorbs whatever you put on it.

My Aunt is very much into health foods and she made this for me when I went back to Michigan. She's always sending me the latest news on what's been shown to have the highest protein content or what's fighting cancer, etc. So after watching her prepare a yummy salad with quinoa as the star, I promised myself I'd try and find some here in Virginia. True to my word, I picked some up at Trader Joe's last week and have since been stuffing myself silly with the following recipe. It's super simple, extremely healthy, and quite addictive.

I've also included some additional ideas of things you can serve with the quinoa, but it is a wonderful light lunch or dinner by itself. The inspiration was originally a Greek themed meal, but after looking in the fridge I realized this salad brings together a traditional Persian appetizer: curly parsley, shards of feta (French), radishes, and pita. I didn't have radishes, but I think they'd add the perfect bite.

Quinoa with Cucumber, Avocado, Tomato, and Parsley

What You Need

1 avocado, cut into medium chunks
1/2 of an English Cucumber, scoop out the seeds and peel off the skin if it's too tough, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 oz feta cheese, cut into medium-small dices
juice of 1/2 a lemon
about 1 cup chopped curly parsley, stems removed, rinsed well
2 cloves garlic, chopped
pepper, salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cups cooked quinoa (so 1 cup dry - it basically doubles in size)

Cook the quinoa by adding the grains to a pot and adding twice as much water. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let steam for about 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff it with a fork. It should still have a little crunch to it.

Mix all the veggies in a bowl, add the herbs and dressing, then the cooked quinoa.

Eat immediately or save for leftovers - you might need to add more dressing the next day because it'll absorb overnight, most likely.

Now, you can adjust any of those amounts as needed - the salad was pretty chunky which is how I like it, but you could easily stretch your dollars by adding more quinoa. This recipe feeds about 4 people.

Serve with chicken - all I do is thaw the chicken and arrange it on a sheet pan lined with parchment or aluminum foil. The trick to not over-oiling the chicken (I HATE losing my good olive oil to the tray instead of the chicken), is to first pour the oil into a soup spoon and then use the spoon to spread the oil - this way there isn't any mess. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, sage, and oregano. Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes for tenders and longer, maybe 30 minutes, for chicken breasts.

I served with this little yogurt dipping sauce recipe, also Persian-inspired.

Mix about 1 cup of Greek yogurt with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Chop about 1/2 a cup of curly parsley (use the rest of the bunch you used in the quinoa dish). Next, add about half a chopped cucumber and stir it all together. Serve on top of the chicken or the salad.


  1. That looks absolutely amazing, how much did it all cost you for the ingredients?

  2. We buy quinoa @ Costco to save some money and make it in our rice cooker to save time. My husband likes to experiment with different combinations of ingredients in the quinoa each week & we eat it most nights of the week. Quinoa & a pot of some kind of soup & we're set for the week!

  3. Weston, the quinoa is the most expensive thing - but thanks to Charlotte, now you have an idea on how to save on that cost. The tomato, feta, avocado, and cucumber can be used in anything all week and their cost varies according to what's in season or what's on sale at your local market.

  4. Charlotte, thanks for the great idea! For some reason I have issues making things in the rice cooker - they always come out too watery. I'd love to hear what you do with your quinoa - any tips?