Why quinoa salad is the best thing since sliced bread*.

*LITERALLY. And I don’t use that word lightly. 

Quinoa.

It burst seemingly out of nowhere, ready to puzzle us with it’s hard to pronounce name {kwin-oh-wah???} and apparent similarity to that ubiquitous 80’s favourite, couscous {or as my oldest son is fond of saying, the food so nice they named it twice}, and being loudly hailed everywhere you looked as that most highly desired of all noughties food groups: the SUPERFOOD.

Pictured here with chicken, rocket, almonds, olives, and feta.

Naturally I avoided it for a long time.

It was only earlier this year, as I searched for a new lunch slash salad option for the cafe that I decided I should give it a go. It ticked all the boxes: quick and easy to prepare, versatile {it seemed to pair with anything and everything}, and most importantly, gluten free. {You’d be surprised at how many customers requested gluten free food options on a daily basis. Then again maybe you wouldn’t.} I played around with different combos the first few times and discovered that I actually liked it with anything. I love the quinoa itself, so pairing it with other stuff I liked was a no brainer.

And after going vegan it pretty much became my go to meal.

Here are the things I love to add to quinoa:

  • anything green. From vegies {chargrilled zucchini and asparagus} to salad leaves {rocket loves quinoa, also baby spinach}.
  • Proteins in the form of meat and poultry. Okay I personally skip this food group but any salad that had both quinoa and chicken in it was a guaranteed sell-out. You can’t argue with that. Obviously chicken breast is best here, either poached, grilled, or shredded off a shop-bought charcoal chook. I’d say you could also add some sliced lamb backstrap fillet {medium rare}, some beef strips {medium rare again}, or even some smoked duck breast. Go nuts experimenting. And keep in mind that quinoa is actually high in protein all by itself.
  • Vegetables. I seriously didn’t try one single vegie that I didn’t loved paired with this supergrain. Roasted is definitely my favourite for the sticky flavour you get and the sweetness from things like onions {portobello mushrooms and baby carrots also top the list} but even baby beets out of a jar work, as do other foods from jars like artichokes, asparagus, and chargrilled peppers. I’ve also tried pumpkin and it’s a bit of a match made in heaven to be honest. Semi dried tomatoes may be garishly 80’s but pair well also. Olives are COMPULSORY.
  • Legumes. Chickpeas and lentils in particular. Butter beans would also work I imagine, I just haven’t got around to trying them yet.
  • Nuts. Toasted pine nuts, slivered or sliced almonds, walnuts, pistachios, even pecans. All work a treat. Sounds crazy I know.
  • Cheese. Again, one I try to skip especially when trying to be a good little vegan, but I will add some if I’m serving a crowd. Goats cheese, any kind of fetta, and even ricotta are all perfect.

The possibilities truly are endless. You could delve into almost any cuisine and find inspiration: Middle Eastern style with pomegranate seeds, dates, and almonds; Mediterranean style with diced cucumber and tomato, olives, fetta, rocket, and red onion; Modern Australian style with roasted pumpkin, baby spinach, and goats cheese. Or you could go Tex-Mex with chargrilled corn, diced tomato and avocado, and crispy bacon strips. Or you could do like I did on so many days and just threw in a bit of this and a bit of that to have a quick lunch. {It also keeps really well in the fridge, plain and without any dressing, for a few days easy. It never lasts longer than that here.}

In short: I really recommend you have a go.

Follow the cooking instructions on the back of the quinoa packet and enjoy yourself a delicious meal that will not leave you with that full uncomfortable heavy feeling you sometimes get from eating too much of a good thing. The thing about quinoa is that it really is as good for you as everyone is shouting about, plus it has a great nutty taste that I love. It’s the perfect kind of neutral but not boring base to a meal that allows you to add whatever tickles your fancy. The tricolour variety is my favourite for sheer visual appeal but is a bit pricier than the white variety. Both taste yum.

So there you go.

Quinoa: it actually fucking rocks.

Who woulda thought…

  1. I totally agree with you! Quinoa is a staple for me, and there’s nothing better than a good quinoa salad! I love playing around with different add-ins, and I just made a delicious fall quinoa salad with apples and cheddar and will probably post a recipe for it sometime soon. The middle-eastern style sounds delicious-definitely going to make that next time!

    Reply

    1. Apples would be perfect! Will be trying that. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

  2. I love quinoa too. I like to rinse mine really really well before I cook it, also cook it for longer than I think reasobable then give it a final rinse and drain before using because I find it has a bitter grassiness I don’t like (sapponins I think).

    By the way, are you still running the cafe?

    Reply

    1. Hi there, just sold the cafe recently hence the return to real life!

      Reply

  3. Quinoa onin rings are a fav, though I rarely get to eat them.

    Reply

    1. Must admit I’ve not seen those anywhere… Will check it out.

      Reply

  4. I am always on the hunt for new ways to use quinoa, since I just <3 <3 <3 it, from your newest blog follower

    Reply

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