Eskimo Nebula

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Join Me For Merienda: Jesscafé - V,GF- Toasted Quinoa Salad

Hello everybody!

I hope that for most of you that spring has already begun and shown its signs. Over here, where I reside, it's still cold and in fact snowing at the moment =0 

The following recipe was requested a few months ago and I had it in queue, but didn't get to have all of the components to post it until now, but here we go =)

This is a multiple step recipe, but it is still a really easy one to put together, especially if you prepare some of the components in advance. It's also pretty simple because I use an electric rice cooker to get a near perfect quinoa cooked before adding in more flavorful ingredients, which create a simple dish with depth and complexity of flavor.

Jesscafé -Vegan and Gluten Free Toasted Quinoa Salad


2 C Toasted Organic Quinoa*
3 1/2 C Filtered Water
1 TB Good Olive Oil 
1 Bay leaf
1 TB Shawarma spice or other favorite spice blend of your choice
1 Tsp Turmeric
1 Tsp Sumac
1 Tsp  Toasted Cumin Seeds
Dash of Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to your taste
2-3 generous pinches of:
Organic- Basil, Oregano, Dill etc. (Use the herbs that you like)
Organic Dried Apricots/Cherries/Currants/Cranberries etc. (Your choice)
Toasted Sunflower Seeds/Pepitas/Sliced Almonds/Walnuts/ orPine nuts if you're feeling fancy ;p

Sauteed Vegetables-
Carmelized Red Onion
Variety of Bell Peppers chopped
Organic carrots chopped

1/3 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1 C  or less
Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil or any good quality oil
2-3 Tsp Good quality mustard
The rest of the herbs
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of Organic Sugar or organic fruit preserve of your choice (I have used an orange marmalade before)

* You could make this recipe without toasting the quinoa first and it will taste good, but it will not have the same nutty flavor and texture to it.


In order to expedite this recipe, you might consider making the vinaigrette, cooking the vegetables and caramelizing the onions the day before you cook the quinoa.

Caramelizing the red onions should be pretty straight forward, I cut the oinions into half moons, separate the rings, saute them in a good amount of olive oil, tossed with a tiny pinch of Himilayan pink salt and set to medium low heat and cook it down for about 20-25 minutes.

Making the vinaigrette is also fairly simple, just put everything together in a glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Stick it in the fridge. Done.

This is a recipe for a toasted quinoa salad, so you need to toast the quinoa first as well as the cumin seeds.I am not going to go into detail about pan toasting right now, but if you really want one in the future, I'll consider writing a future post about it. Here's a photo of the toasted quinoa:

Let the toasted quinoa cool slightly before putting it into your insert pot for the rice cooker, along with the bay leaf, toasted cumin seeds, shawarma spice, turmeric,sumac, half  the total amount of the herbs, 3 1/2 cups of filtered water, Himalayan pink Salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Stir together and then close the lid, select the 'White Rice,' setting and let it run its cycle. Once cycle is over, open up and check to see that the quinoa is done, you should be able to crush the grain easily, but it should still have some body to it (this is what the toasting lends to the quinoa, aside from a nuttier taste as well). Fluff the quinoa and then let it sit uncovered for 5 minutes more.

At this point, you could either leave the quinoa in the cooking pot or move it into another big mixing bowl.
Personally, as long as I have room and the heat doesn't bother the next components of the recipe, I'd rather keep it where it is, rather than dirtying another bowl/dish. My original toasted quinoa salad incorporated the vinaigrette, but you really could skip the vinaigrette all together and just mix in the sauteed vegetables and rest of the herbs and season to taste; if that's what you would prefer to do.

Fluff the quinoa again and then add in the vinaigrett in small increments and mix it in gently, taste the quinoa before adding in more vinaigrette. You don't want the quinoa swimming in it! Once you get it to the taste you want, you can then add in the cooked bell peppers,caroots, carmelized red onions, toasted sunflower seeds, dried fruit of your choice and add more herbs; if you desire. Keep tasting it as you're adding in the different components. Adjust your seasoning as you see fit. The residual heat of the quinoa helps the vinaigrette to be absorbed, but remember that as the quinoa cools down, the flavors will intensify.

I didn't add in any further fresh herbs to this mix because it was for a party and I wasn't sure if they enjoyed cilantro or not. You could always put some on the side as a option though =)

If you want a bit more herbal taste for the salad, you could add in some chopped flat leaf parsley/mint/cilantro (if you're not afraid of it ;p), probably an hour to 2 hours prior to serving,

You will be using a rice cooker for this recipe, but if you don't have a rice cooker, you can by all means cook it using the standard stovetop, just follow the directions on the package except for the water measurements, I would still use less than recommended. The usual ratio is for every 1 cup of Quinoa, use 2 cups of water, but in my recipe I suggest that you only use 3 1/2 cups of  filtered water for the 2 cups of dry Quinoa.

I bought this rice cooker (that also has a steam basket) for  a little under dollars. It's been a very good investment because I use it all the time, for a multitude of different dishes. 

My rice cooker has buttons for different settings, but you can still do this in a simpler rice cooker that only has an on/off switch, just check on it after it decides that it's 'done,' with its first cycle, if it still looks uncooked then go ahead and push the on switch again, but check it halfway during the cycle.

The flavors will keep on deepening as it sits overnight in the fridge. I would only mix in the final garnishes prior to serving at your gathering. I would also recommend letting the salad warm up a bit (not all the way to room temperature) before serving; so that all the flavors can be fully tasted.

I am sure that I may have skipped something, but I am more than happy to fill in any blanks. Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section.

May you all be well and enjoy this dish with your friends and loved ones!