It’s the new year and I know many of you are trying to eat a little cleaner so I thought I would share this awesome vegetarian quinoa salad I made earlier this week.
This salad was one of those gems that I just “threw together.” My son turned two on Tuesday and we hosted a little pool party for friends and family. We were having pizza delivered but I wanted to have something in addition that would be a little more healthful and would appeal to my friends that don’t eat cheese and try to avoid gluten.
So often cooking isn’t about following a recipe. It’s experimenting, tasting, and being creative. This colorful quinoa salad was a result of cleaning out the produce drawer, nothing more. It’s fresh, colorful and gets a nice boost in flavor from the cilantro and dried cranberries which I added at the last minute. I felt like it was missing something sweet and the cranberries were the finishing touch. The dressing was no different as I just started throwing a little of this and a little of that in a mason jar, tasting after each addition until I got what I wanted. The end result was healthful, beautiful and absolutely delicious. This is definitely my kind of cooking. Where you cook from taste and trust your instincts.
When making a quinoa salad that I want to serve cold, I cook the quinoa then lay it on a cookie sheet to cool before adding any other ingredients- especially dressing. I don’t want it to get soggy or overcook.
The dressing was simple and used basic pantry ingredients: fresh garlic, fresh lime, red wine vinegar, ground cumin and coriander, a pinch of agave nectar, grape seed oil and a little salt and pepper.
Dried fruit is something I always have in my pantry. It’s a great snack on its own but I think a little bit of natures candy makes a good salad great.
This salad made quite a bit as I was feeding a crowd. Feel free to cut it in half to make a more manageable amount. It does, however, make great leftovers and would be delicious with some sliced avocado or chopped chicken for lunch.
Kitchen Sink Quinoa Salad
For the Salad:
- 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 red onion, small dice
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1/3-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
For the Dressing:
- zest and juice of two limes
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons grape seed oil
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
- pinch salt and pepper
Bring to a boil in a medium sized stock pot over high heat. Add quinoa and a pinch of salt, stir to combine. Bring water back to a boil then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Scrape quinoa onto a baking sheet and put quinoa in fridge and chill until cold about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can leave quinoa on the counter and bring to room temperature, this will take about 30 minutes. Once the quinoa has cooled, stir in the red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, celery, carrots, cranberries and cilantro. To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a mason jar or similar container with a tight lid and give a good shake. Pour vinaigrette over quinoa and vegetables. Stir to combine and chill until ready to serve.