Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: How to make any quinoa salad, using whatever ingredients you like, in 5 steps flat.
This is my secret weapon for never, ever eating a boring or otherwise unsatisfying lunch. I practically live on this.
Quinoa prepared this way also provides the launch pad for casual dinner party sides that your guests will adore. For easy weeknight dinners, we like this with just a few chopped tomatoes stirred in, along with a handful of arugula -- used as an herb, really -- to serve with grilled meats, shrimp and sausages.
How to Make Quinoa Salad Without A Recipe
1. Wash the quinoa thoroughly under cold, running filtered water for about a minute. This gets rid of the bitter taste some quinoa otherwise will have. Black, red, or white quinoa will all work.
2. Put the quinoa into a heavy saucepan with twice its volume of water or stock -- I use a fragrant corn stock made from the inside husks of recently picked summer corn for this -- along with a crushed, but intact, clove of garlic, and a good pinch of salt. Give it a good stir.
3. Bring to a boil; then, reduce to a low boil and let it cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the water or stock is absorbed, and the little white rings on the quinoa have popped up.
4. While the quinoa is still hot, fish out the garlic clove, and immediately stir in any finely chopped alliums you want to mellow. One scallion per quarter cup of dry quinoa works well. You can also finely chop the cooked garlic and throw it back in, but that’s optional. Add a couple generous splashes of vinegar -- I use about a tablespoon of vinegar for every quarter cup of dry quinoa but then, I really like vinegar -- and fluff up the quinoa with a fork. Taste it, and add more salt if necessary.
5. Let the quinoa sit, covered, until cool and then, stir in a few tablespoons of finely chopped herbs. (We like parsley or cilantro, or both.) Follow that with a generous drizzle of the tastiest extra virgin olive oil you own, and a few grindings of nice black pepper. Taste just before serving, and add more vinegar, too, if it's not quite bright enough. This keeps for about four days in the fridge.
This tastes delicious as is, but also provides the perfect blank canvas for a side or main dish salad. Stir in any combination of the following: chopped roasted or grilled vegetables, corn kernels (either raw or cooked), chopped cherry or heirloom tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, avocado or peppers, or marinated vegetables or olives.
A handful of toasted pine nuts or pepitas, or a small chunk of feta or blue, crumbled, goes well. Add whatever other chopped fresh herbs or acids, e.g., lemon or lime juice or sherry vinegar, strike your fancy. Have some leftover grilled shrimp, fish, or chicken? Cut into bite-sized pieces and add that, too, if you like. The possibilities are endless.
Still looking for a recipe? Here are some for inspiration:
- One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf
- Southwestern Quinoa Salad, by Way of the Pantry
- Lemon Herb Quinoa with Hemp Seeds, Spring Peas, and Basil
Photos by James Ransom