Copycat Warm Quinoa Salad
Thanksgiving, 2010: Black Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
And before I could even start poring over my cookbooks for a dazzling Quinoa dish for this year’s Spring holiday season, a fabulous warm quinoa salad fell into my lap. (Literally; my voracious 15 month old daughter was sitting in my lap as I was feeding it to her. It got everywhere.) The recipe originates in Montclair, NJ, where our friends Natalie, Andrew and Heather tossed together a random assortment of chopped leftover rosemary-roasted vegetables, a pot of warm quinoa, some goat cheese crumbles, pieces of fresh avocado, and pieces of chopped nuts (cashews?) resulting in this totally flavorful and satisfying dish whose varied colors and textures kept me digging back in for more. I call it Copycat Warm Quinoa Salad because, of course, I am totally knocking it off.
If memory serves, the original version featured roasted beets, small Brussels sprout halves and mushrooms in addition to the fresh avocado. Depending on what you have on hand, you could also include roasted zucchini or summer squash, butternut squash, carrots, asparagus or bell peppers. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a vegetable that *wouldn’t* work well in this salad. Methinks the dish could be made into a more substantial, vegetarian main event by adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup of baby lima beans, edamame or garbanzo beans. If you could get your hands on some fresh fava beans, it would be over the top amazing. The goat cheese, while it adds stupendous flavor and texture to the dish, is optional if you would prefer to make this recipe dairy-free or vegan. Look for Redwood Hill Farm’s award-winning fresh goat cheese or raw goat’s milk feta if it’s available near you– it’s made by 400 of the nicest goats I know, with help from the Bice family. (Disclosure: I am a paid consultant for the company. Which is how I know how nice their goats are and how delicious the cheese!)
Due to the numerous components of this dish, you may want to consider making it in phases, as I did. I roasted my veggies one evening after the kids went to bed, and then the next evening I made the quinoa, toasted the nuts and assembled the salad.
Recipe: Copycat Warm Quinoa Salad
Serves 6 people as a side dish or 4 people as a main dish
- 6 cups raw assorted vegetables, cut into pieces of approximately equal size–about 1″ works well OR about 2 cups assorted leftover roasted vegetables, chopped into bite-sized pieces of ~1/2 “
- Pick your favorites from among: beets, small Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, butternut squash, colored bell peppers, carrots or anything else roastworthy that suits your fancy. I used zucchini, mushrooms, beets, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
- Olive oil
- If roasting your own veggies: 1 TBSP fresh rosemary, finely chopped OR 1 TBSP dried thyme
- 1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
- 3oz fresh goat cheese, firm goat cheese, goat cheese crumbles or feta cheese (optional). If using soft goat cheese, store in fridge until just before ready to assemble salad to make cutting it easier.
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup nuts of your choice– cashews, blanched almond slivers or slices, pine nuts, pistachios…
- 3/4 cup frozen baby lima beans or edamame, cooked according to package instructions OR 3/4 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (OPTIONAL)
- Kosher salt
- Roast your vegetables. If you have a favorite method of doing so, be my guest. If you want some guidance, here’s how I do it: Toss equally-sized pieces of veggies in a bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to kiss them all without drenching (a few TBSPs generally does the trick), and sprinkle with kosher salt and the rosemary or thyme. Place the veggies spaced apart on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until soft and caramelized. If you are using different types of veggies, you may want to roast them in separate batches, grouping together veggies of a similar texture (e.g., soft veggies like zucchini and mushrooms together, firmer veggies like cauliflower and Brussels together, etc..) If you are using red beets, consider tossing them in oil separately than the others so that they don’t stain everything magenta. 6 cups of veggies should shrivel down to about 2 cups when all is said and done.
- While veggies are roasting, cook your quinoa in lightly salted water according to package instructions. (Generally, 1.5 cups water to 1 cup quinoa.)
- Toast your nuts. My favorite way to do this is to put raw nuts (I used blanched almond slices) in a non-stick pan over medium heat with no oil or fat. Stir constantly until nuts start to brown. Turn off heat and continue stirring for another minute or so so they continue to brown. Remove from heat immediately as they are more consistently brown and toasty smelling to avoid burning them.
- Chop roasted vegetables into bite-sized pieces (about 1/2″).
- Remove goat cheese or feta from fridge. Cut into small cubes/pieces. (Not necessary if you’re using pre-crumbled cheese, of course)
- Cut avocado into small cubes
- To assemble the salad: Combine warm quinoa in a large serving bowl with roasted veggies, toasted nuts and beans, if including them. Toss well. Sprinkle cheese and avocado crumbles over the salad and toss again, breaking up large clumps of cheese/quinoa into smaller pieces if needed.
- Season with additional kosher salt to taste if needed. If you have a fancy olive oil, you could also drizzle it over the finished product as well.
or 4 people as
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