Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Monday, January 20, 2014

Red, Black and White Warm Quinoa Salad

A few weeks back, Bruce and I had dinner at a little neighborhood bistro.  It had received good reviews but we were a bit disappointed with both of our meals.  I ordered roast chicken and it was not memorable. Nothing looked very good on the menu and my thought process was, "How can you mess up roast chicken"? Well, they could and they did.
The nicest surprise for me was the tower of red quinoa served alongside my chicken.  The chef had formed it in a tall ring mold and the tall tower looked a bit odd and it was sort of an island in the chicken drippings. The red quinoa (really brown after cooking) had flecks of green and red in it. I wasn't anticipating liking it much.  I wasn't expecting it to be spectacular.  But it was.  The more I ate, the more I liked, no.... loved it!  I left the chicken on the plate but I ate every last bite of that warm quinoa.
I've been wanting to recreate that side dish.  So I made a version of the restaurant dish to go with a salmon fillet.  I had no recipe to follow but mine tasted every bit as good as the restaurant's.  I will be making this dish again and again.  The quinoa had just the right amount of "tooth" to it. This is a hearty side dish and could be a meal in itself.  I used spinach in my version because the arugula at the market did not look fresh.

Now, if you are unfamiliar with cooking quinoa, here's a big TIP:
YOU MUST RINSE THE QUINOA under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy prior to cooking it.  Quinoa has a substance on the outside of the seed (did you know it's a seed really and not a grain?) called saponins, that is bitter if not rinsed off.  Rinse it well before cooking and make sure you rinse it in a fine mesh strainer.  The grains are little and you don't want them to fall through.  I have eaten quinoa that was a bit off-tasting and bitter and now I know why.

Best of all, quinoa is good for you.  It 's high in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron, as well as being an excellent source of fiber.  It's also gluten free.  It's known as a super food.
Red, Black and White Warm Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups of good chicken stock or broth (unsalted or low salt)
3/4 cup of quinoa (I used a mixture of red, black and white), rinsed well with cold water
2 cups of fresh spinach or arugula leaves, washed and left damp
1/2 cup of chopped yellow onions
1/4 cup of chopped bell pepper (I used an orange one)
1 clove of fresh garlic, chopped
splash of good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the quinoa under cold water until the water is no longer cloudy, using a fine mesh strainer.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the quinoa and stir.  Cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked through.  Take the pan off the heat and let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.  The quinoa needs to steam after cooking, much like rice. After the allotted time, remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Keep it covered and warm for now.

While the quinoa is cooking, add a splash of olive oil to a heavy bottomed large pan.  Heat the oil to medium.  Add the bell pepper and onion and cook about 10 minutes until the veggies are wilted and golden brown.  Add the garlic clove and cook for about 30 seconds. Don't let the garlic brown or it will be bitter.
(This is an untouched photo.  Don't you love the bright green of the spinach?)
Add the spinach to the pan and saute it until it is wilted and tender.  The water droplets on the leaves will help it to steam a bit and cook down. Sprinkle the spinach with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

When the spinach is tender and wilted, put the vegetable mixture into a bowl and add the fluffed quinoa and stir gently to combine with the vegetables.  Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
Serve warm.

This made about 6 servings.

When summer squash and tomatoes are in season, I think they would make a great addition to this salad.


  1. It sounds lovely - I have salmon, I have (white only) quinoa, I may well be back tomorrow to get the recipe to make this!! Thank you for this, especially the info on rinsing. I did not know that, but I will certainly make sure to rinse in future. xx

  2. Oh, that looks delicious! Thank you for the helpful tip, too!

  3. I am thinking this needs to be in my, "give it a try" column. I have it saved into my Paprika Recipe file on my iPad. Thank you.

  4. This looks wonderful Bonnie! Thanks for the tip on rinsing -- I've never made quinoa before so that's a great thing to know!

  5. Hmmm, mouth watering! I love quinoa and often mix it with rice so kids will eat it. Will have to try this salad!

  6. I love quinoa and your recipe sounds like something Hubs and I would like. I roasted a chicken yesterday and oh, it was good. I wish you could have had it instead of the yucky bistro chicken.

  7. First let me say that I love your quote from Marjorie Hinckley! Love that woman. She makes you feel ok doesn't she?!!
    This looks wonderful and I think that may be why I haven't liked my quinoa - I haven't been rinsing it. Ok, I will give it another try. The huge bag went down in to the basement food storage and hasn't been seen since the first time I tried it. Now I will try again.

  8. I do think you all will find a difference by rinsing your quinoa grains. Most commercial quinoa is rinsed before packaging but I will tell you that it took me 2 to 3 minutes of rinsing to get my rinse water to run clear so I do think it makes a difference.

  9. It is terrible when you go to a restaurant and it disappoints you. I'm sure you could roast a chicken way better than theirs. Your quinoa salad sounds great, I'm going to have to look for the mixed one. I haven't been able to get my comments to go through but hopefully the problem has been corrected. :)