Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Herbs, Cucumber, Cheese and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I  still love quinoa and I am often on the lookout for new recipe with the protein rich grain/seed! Here is one I just came up with this weekend for a light lunch on a hot summer day. Packed with nutrients, this salad will not leave you hungry!
Quinoa Salad with Herbs, Cucumber, Cheese and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

Dressing-Whisk together the following -
2-3 TBSP Lime or lemon juice
3 TBSP olive oil, may use more if needed
Zest of 1 small lemon (or maybe lime would work too)
1 tsp. Lemon pepper
½ tsp. Garlic powder
Generous pinch of cumin, smoked paprika, optional
Salt to taste
1 Cucumber
1 Tomato
½ cup Parsley, minced
 About 2 Tablespoons basil or other fresh herbs, minced
½-3/4 cup Sweet peppers, diced, either the small ones or bell peppers  

½-2/3  cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2/3  cup Smoked Gouda or other cheese, cubed, optional
Kale chips for garnish, optional (or premade kale or seaweed chips)
Green leaf or romaine lettuce for serving

Note: All of these amounts are flexible; this is just to give you an idea.

First rinse and cook quinoa. You can use any method you like.  I know some people have trouble with having mushy, soggy or overcooked quinoa. This does not have to be!! Try one of the methods listed in this note.*

Once quinoa is done you can add the dressing and then refrigerate until cool

Peel or mostly peel cucumber then slice in half lengthwise twice, quartering. Cut the seeds out. Chop.
Cut up tomato, squeezing out some of the seeds. Chop.
Seed and dice sweet peppers.

Preheat oven to 3 50 and roast raw pumpkin seeds in a bit of olive oil, salt and pinch of cumin and smoked paprika if desired.  Roast until crunchy, about 8-11 minutes.

If you have a leaf or two of kale, make a mini batch of kale chips. Wash the leaves, dry, cut of stems and into pieces. Rub with just a hint of olive oil. Turn oven down to 300 and bake for 10 minutes or so until fully crisp but not browned.

After quinoa has cooled a bit add the cucumber, tomato peppers and herbs. Throw in any fresh herbs you would like. Mix it all together. Taste and adjust lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning. If you need more oomph you may splash a bit of vinegar or crumble some red pepper flakes in.

Plate and nice sized scoop of salad on a bed of green leaf or romaine lettuce and top with crunchy seeds and creamy cheese cubes and a sprinkle of kale chips if desired. Of course for dairy free you may skip cheese.

*Start by rinsing quinoa. I buy pre rinsed but still make sure to rinse well to remove the bitter residue that is a naturally occurring pest and mildew deterrent.

One way to rinse is to use the finest mesh sieve and place it in a bowl to soak and rinse. Some quinoa may fall through, but the bowl will catch it. However you do it, Rinse several times and then you are ready to cook.

Next it is time to cook the quinoa. Here are three ways you can cook quinoa for any recipe.

Method 1- My favorite is to use a rice cooker and cook as you would rice. The rice cooker works wonderfully with little effort or guessing when it is done, making nice fluffy “grains.”

Method 2-Another way is to cook it according to package instructions in a good sized pot with a tight lid. I bring salted water to a boil, stir in quinoa, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Some varieties may take up to 20 minutes. But check for doneness and when the grains are tender, remove from heat. If there is any water you may drain this with a sieve. This is my second choice for how to cook it.

Method 3- I saw this on a Rachel Ray cooking show years ago but I am not sure which one. It takes a bit more work but comes out as nice as it does in the rice cooker and is my preferred method without rice cooker.

 Rinse quinoa  in a fine-mesh sieve then pour it into a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook until almost tender, about 12 minutes; drain in the sieve. In the same pot, bring enough water to reach about 2 inch to a simmer over medium heat. Set the sieve with quinoa in the pot. Cover with a kitchen towel, then the lid, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.

Whatever method you use: DO NOT OVERCOOK Quinoa! Check it just before it is supposed to be done and only use the amount of water specified. If there is any water left after quinoa is cooked, try draining it with a sieve. You want it dry and fluffy...




  1. I''m always looking for new ways with quinoa, too - great salad

  2. Thanks, I am glad you like it!

  3. What a lovely and healthy salad. I like all the textures you have going on. :)