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Cooking the Book: Quinoa Salad with Red Bell Pepper and Cilantro

2012 July 19

Every time I make quinoa, I say to myself “This stuff is great! Why don’t we have quinoa more often?” And then I immediately forget about it again, letting the jar drift to the back of the cabinet again until it pops up in someone else’s  recipes or suggestions. It’s a “New World” grain that is incredibly good for you — a complete protein with tons of iron, fiber and calcium — and cooks super fast. In addition to reminding me how awesome quinoa is, this recipe should also serve as a reminder that mixing in a few little minced tidbits can make a whole new dish out of next to nothing, or even leftover bits from the main dish.

The Good

Quinoa is tasty, quick and a nice change of pace from rice or noodles with a nutty flavor that goes with pretty much anything. The handful of diced fresh ingredients makes this side a little more summery and can use up some of the tidbits from other recipes (we like it with the black bean burgers in part because it gives you something to do with that half of a red bell pepper the recipe leaves you with. And if you want to get crazy and throw a little bit of fresh jalapeno in the burger mix, well, here you go).

The Bad

There’s not much bad about the dish itself. The recipe is a little fussy, but if you make your own process adjustments (see mine below), you can make relatively quick, healthy side dish without too much fuss.

The Leftovers

Truth? I don’t do any of the drying on a towel stuff with quinoa. For me, it’s just an extra, potentially messy step in what is an otherwise side dish. Definitely do not skip rinsing the quinoa, however; some kinds can taste bitter without rinsing. It can drain in the sieve like anything else.

I also mixed everything together in the cooking pot, once the quinoa was reasonably cool. Serving bowls don’t really happen for weeknight dinner around here.

Quinoa Salad with Red Bell Pepper and Cilantro


2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and dried on a towel

1 cup water

salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 shallot, minced

1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin


Toast quinoa in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Stir in water and 1/8 teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer until quinoa has absorbed most of the water and is just tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Spread onto rimmed baking sheet lined with towel and set aside until tender and cool, about 20 minutes.

When quinoa is cool, transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in bell pepper, jalapeno, shallow and cilantro. In separate bowl, whisk oil, lime juice, mustard, garlic and cumin together until well combined. Pour over quinoa and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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