Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quinoa Salad with Apricots & Pistachios

It has been salad central here lately, folks. I believe this is the third I've posted in a row. I make no apologies, though, because each has been excellent and a nice alternative to the usual, but equally wonderful, salads that I usually associate with these hot summer months.

My first exposure to quinoa (KEEN-wah) was at a recent wedding, where it was served as a side dish. It was a beautiful backyard wedding and as I was going through the buffet line one of the servers said something unintelligible to me and then plopped something onto my plate. Because I didn't know how to correctly pronounce quinoa (am I the only one who was sounding it out phonetically?!) I didn't know what I was eating until one of my table mates casually mentioned it during a lull in conversation. I don't remember too much about how it was prepared that night, as I was too distracted by all the drinking, dancing, and socializing that weddings call for, but I made a note in my mental archives to investigate further. I had heard a lot about quinoa and was curious about what I could do with it. 

So this salad gave me my desired opportunity to experiment with this much talked about wonder grain. It also gave me the opportunity to use up the last of the apricots that I had been ignoring on my counter. And I'll never pass up a reason to eat pistachios.

I'd never dream of mixing breakfast oatmeal in with my dinner salad so I was curious to see if the mixing of grains and greens might backfire. It didn't. Not here, at least. There are a lot of different flavors and textures at play in this salad, and they all complement each other well. The quinoa gives a little more fullness to a salad, making it an ideal main course. It also packs up well for lunch the next day, and that's always a plus with this brown-bagger.

Quinoa Salad with Apricots & Pistachios
From Cooking Light

Quinoa is a tiny grain with a cooked texture that is much lighter than rice. It is also considered a "supergrain" because it's so nutrient dense and high in protein (not because it wears little capes and fights crime, although that would be cool). 

3 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce (I used spinach)
1/3 cup dried apricots (about 10), quartered (or use fresh -about 6- if in season)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios

1/2 tsp grated lime rind
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine) or slightly sweet white wine (such as Riesling)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 1 tsp minced jalapeno pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp paprika

1) To prepare salad, combine water, quinoa, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving 3 tbsp of the cooking liquid. Combine quinoa mixture, lettuce, and next 8 ingredients (lettuce through black pepper) in a large bowl; set aside.

2) To prepare vinaigrette, combine reserved cooking liquid, lime rind, and remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Pour vinaigrette over quinoa salad and toss well to coat.

3) Sprinkle with pistachios before serving.


  1. love love love quinoa, especially with greens. Goes so well with arugula too, you should try while you are on your salad kick! Not a bad kick to be on if i may say so!

  2. My fiance made this for dinner the other night after reading about it here and it was soooo good. The apricots were a very nice surprise every once in a while as I was eating.