A Few Simple and Potent Quinoa Salad Recipes

About a month ago, I was introduced to quinoa (KIN-wa) by some organic farming friends at Whippletree farm. Since then, I have integrated quinoa into my diet and thought I’d share a few recipes here, with more to come.

Quinoa is a South American grain of which you primarily eat the seeds. If you’ve never heard of it, or not sure what to make of it, NASA has declared it virtually unrivaled in the plant or animal kingdom for its life-sustaining nutrients and with an exceptional balance of amino acids (NY Times, Mar 19 2011). That is by far the best endorsement I have ever heard about any food, and it also tastes far better than my other staples of pasta and rice! No hype here, folks! This is the real deal!

Quinoa Nutritional Content and Value Comparison

Quinoa is about 8-10 times more expensive than plain white glutinous rice. It is about 3-4 times more expensive than durum wheat pasta. However, for what else you’d have to buy, and eat, to get the same nutrient content as quinoa, it’s probably cheap. Compare the nutrient contents for quinoa, rice and durum wheat pasta, especially completeness and amino acids profile that’s your protein source for people who don’t get enough protein. Then there’s the bad stuff you wouldn’t have to ingest or ingest as much, like trans fats in meats, to fill out your nutrient content like with quinoa. I’m not suggesting you ditch any of that stuff. Maybe just add some quinoa to your diet.

It took me no time to integrate quinoa into my diet and cooking repertoire, substituting it into practically everything I make with steam long grain glutinous white rice as a base. I have also substituted quinoa for pasta in all my pasta salads. I have also been telling people about it in many ways, which have led many to ask me about the change and how I cook with quinoa, so I thought I’d share.

Cooking Quinoa Backgrounder

There are lots of quinoa recipes online. Just Google the terms. I’m sharing my recipes because I think they’re generally simpler and faster to prepare than others I found, for the busy people out there. I highly recommend you tweak to substitute ingredients you might not like (e.g. green onions is not a lot of people’s favourites) to make your own customized versions.

I cook my quinoa in a rice cooker or steamer. If you don’t have one of these things, it could be one of the best kitchen appliances you’ll ever get. Even if you don’t eat rice or quinoa a lot now, the convenience it affords you and how good those two staples are for you may make you use the rice cooker a lot more.

I cook my quinoa at a 2:1 water to quinoa volume ratio. I usually make about 112g or 1/4 pound of quinoa per meal or half of the half pound package in which I get my quinoa. Whatever that takes up in volume in the coffee cup I use, I add double the amount of water. Reduce the water ratio if you like your quinoa drier and fluffier than how it comes out when you cook it.

I usually have the quinoa cooked and ready before making the salads, although I sometimes make it while the quinoa is cooking.

Otherwise, I cook very “ish” with respect to measurements. You’ll have to figure out what you like anyways so no point me pinpointing exact amounts.

Quinoa Salad

  • 1/4 pound quinoa steamed in twice volume of water
  • 1 tomato sliced into half or 1/4 rings
  • 4 tubes of green onions 2″ in length sliced into thin rings
  • 4 white mushrooms sliced and then halved
  • Some field greens or baby spinach, slightly cut up
  • Some basil to complement the tomatoes
  • Zesty Italian salad dressing (or choose your own)
  • A touch of soya sauce optional if you want a touch of salt taste

While the quinoa is being cooked, if it’s not already waiting, I prepare most of the rest of the salad. I slice the tomatoes and put it in first. Then I sprinkle basil on it and mix to get the two together since they were meant for each other. I then add the sliced mushrooms, green onions and field greens or spinach and mix again. This goes into the fridge until the quinoa is ready, at which time I’d leave the quinoa to cool for a few minutes. At this time, mix the salad and quinoa together and it’ll come to a nice even temperature. Finally, add the salad dressing and possibly soya sauce and mix one final time before eating.

Your favourite salad dressing may not work well with this recipe as some salad dressing base just doesn’t go together well with some things. However, you could always take your favourite salad recipe and add quinoa to it!

Shrimp Quinoa Salad

  • 1/4 pound quinoa steamed in 2 times volume of water
  • 4 white mushrooms sliced and then halved
  • 1 tomato sliced into half or 1/4 rings
  • 4 tubes of green onions 2″ in length
  • 5-7 large shrimps (or as you like with smaller shrimp)
  • Some tarragon to offset shrimp smell
  • Zesty Italian salad dressing (or choose your own)

Here, I cut the mushrooms up and put it on top of the water in which I cook the quinoa, and cook it with the quinoa. I like the softer texture of steamed mushrooms than the raw white mushroom texture that’s not as smooth as the shrimps, especially slightly old and/or dried white mushrooms. I’m not losing much mushroom nutrients in cooking them because what gets dissolved gets absorbed into the quinoa. However, I don’t advise cooking the mushrooms with the quinoa if you’re going to leave it for like a day or so before eating. Just add the raw mushrooms in such case.

While the quinoa is cooking, I boil a little water and throw in my shrimps for a few minutes, whether to unfreeze or cook if they were raw. I peel them, too, after I take them out and wait for the quinoa to cook if I doing both at the same time. I don’t usually cut up the shrimps, but you may want to for a more even mix of shrimp throughout the finished salad.

I then slice up the tomatoes and green onions and mix them with the shrimp in a big bowl. Or just use a big Tupperware container, put the lid on, and shake! I love that trick taught to me by my colleague Lindsay.

When the quinoa and mushrooms is ready, I add that (with the mushrooms), then shake. Then I add the salad dressing and shake. Finally, the tarragon goes on top of it all.

The quinoa recipes here also work for pasta,

Four recipes for the free price of two, eh? 🙂

You can actually further variety with many pasta shapes available. Each has its own texture and feel and is of enough difference to me that it almost feels like a different meal. I have done penne rigate, fusili, elbow macaroni, conchiglie (medium shells), rotelles (little wagon wheels), rotini and orzo (little barley)

Please click here for my other quinoa recipes.


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