Quinoa can be oh-so tasty!

I really love quinoa (I learned to pronounce it as keen-wah). One of the first quinoa recipes I tried a couple of years ago has now become the most raved and frequently requested recipes by Dave’s Peruvian side of the family. For those that are not familiar with the origin of quinoa, it came from the Andean region, which includes the country of Peru. I actually don’t think I had tried cooking quinoa before meeting Dave but am not sure whether one had to do with the other.

My favorite quinoa recipe (I would call it mine but it really is a modified version of a really well written recipe which I will reference later) is really more a matter of technique in patience and following steps that may seem rather tedious. Quinoa is as easy to cook as rice, it takes about as long to boil and you can certainly eat it plain for the many nutritional benefits. But what’s the fun in that?! It tastes very plain on it’s own and just a couple veggies and herbs add so much flavor and nutrition. And without further ado, here is my step by step quinoa recipe tutorial which I have adapted from this awesome avacado.org recipe! http://www.avocado.org/recipe-details/view/24812/toasted-quinoa-and-avocado-salad

Marina’s Toasted Quinoa Salad Tutorial
*Timing Note: While this recipe will bring you a delicious quinoa salad, it does take some time and involves chopping! If you do not have an hour for prep and about 2-3 hours for cooling of the quinoa (can be done in the fridge overnight), I suggest following the quinoa recipe up to the cooling part and mixing in any chopped veggies after it cooks. But if you are feeling adventurous and would like a yummy, refreshing salad, which I hope you do, follow the whole recipe as listed :).

Ingredients to cook quinoa:
(My pictures include a doubled version as I was cooking for a large gathering)
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cups water or broth (which adds more flavor than just water)
Oil of choice – preferred amount
1 small yellow or white onion or half a regular one, finely diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves minced

Step 1: Clean the quinoa! This is one of the most important steps in washing away any bitterness your quinoa may be hiding. I used to try getting away with not doing this but a few surprise crunches in a salad taught me that it is a must. I thoroughly run water over the quinoa for about 5 exchanges.


I have this cool cutting board gadget which I sometimes set the fine mesh colander over and let the water run while cutting the onion on the board. Comes in really handy.

Step 2: Toast and cook the quinoa – this step brings out the lovely flavor of this salad, helping bring the salads name to life!
In a pot/saucepan, heat some oil, I use olive oil and just put enough to coat the pot of size I am using. After getting as much of the water out of the quinoa as I can, I add it to the warmed oil and toast for about 5 minutes. Then I add the chopped onion and minced garlic for another couple of minutes, just to extract some of the flavor.


Next goes the water, in this case I used double the amount and did not add any broth flavoring. However, it should be noted that if adding broth, your quinoa will have a tinted brown color rather than a creamy white color.


I always set a timer when cooking so I can get to the chopping and do other stuff while I am cooking. I set it to 15 minutes but ended up cooking the quinoa for 25, perhaps because of doubling the recipe. In any case, check on your quinoa 15 minutes into cooking and if there is a lot of liquid left, cook 10 more minutes. If there is no liquid left, turn off the heat and leave the lid on to let it get fluffy and if there is a little water left, cook about 5 more minutes before turning off the heat and letting it fluff.

Fluff with a fork once done and scoop out onto a baking dish to allow to cool. If cooling overnight, you can just leave it out on the stove and put it in the fridge before you go to bed at night, just do something that works for you.

Step 3: This is the chopping part I mentioned in the timing note. If you are making this a day in advance, I recommend either doing the chopping the day you put the salad together or keeping it in a separate container as you cool overnight (I have found the salad can get a bit soggy if you mix it all and leave it overnight). Here are your yummy veggie and herb mix-ins for this salad:

Salad ingredients:
1/2 red onion chopped (always a must!)
1-2 cucumbers chopped (I like persian in this salad because you can keep the skin and not have bitterness an issue)
2-3 tomatoes chopped (or a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 jalapeno or green bell pepper minced (depending on your need for heat)
2 TB (tablespoons) cilantro finely minced
1 TB mint finely minced (I found flat leaf parsley substitutes very well if you cannot find fresh mint)
1 avocado diced (this is the last ingredient you want to add because avocado gets mushy fast)


Step 4: Make the dressing!

This is the easiest part of the whole thing, I promise. Juice a couple of limes (or lemons, preference and availability is the determining factor), 2 TB is a good amount. You can mince another garlic clove here if you like the garlicky flavor but next you want to stream in some olive oil (about 4 TB) and whisk with a fork or small whisk – big whisk does not work for this, trust me.

Step 5: Best part – COMBINE IT ALL!
My favorite way of doing this is to mix all the chopped veggies, herbs and dressing well. Then I add the cooled quinoa and stir well to combine. And trying my best not to forget (this is my biggest struggle as a chef), SEASON! Add salt and pepper, crushed preferred.

Don’t forget the AVOCADO! Since I did get this recipe off the avocado.org site, I can’t forget to include it in the recipe (although I was not able to find a ripe enough avocado to add to the bowl for my picture). You can cut up one or two ripe avocados and fold them in, to your liking.


P.S. I know this may sound crazy to some but I made this recipe 3 times this weekend. That’s right three! Dave’s whole family was in town from around the country and his mom had asked me to make it for his grandma and grandpa’s birthday party on Saturday night. This one I made with flat leaf parsley because I happened to have it and only used a cup of quinoa. At the end of the evening everyone was ranting and raving about it and when we were invited to the lunch gathering the following day, I knew I had to make it again! So I made a second batch, this time with two cups of quinoa and cilantro I picked up from farmers market. It came out so yummy and although we did not stay long enough for the lunch that turned into dinner, I hope they all liked it. The final time I made it included overnight cooling of the quinoa and storing chopped veggies in a separate container overnight. I made another batch of quinoa for a potluck at work on Monday and for lunch for the week, since I had enough of all ingredients and wanted to take more pictures so I could finish taking pictures for this blog!

Here are some non food photos from the weekend 🙂

so many dancing ladies!

Dave’s great grandmother, grandmother and her sisters!