1 Bag of Red Quinoa, 5 Dinners

April  7, 2014

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.

Today: It's time to develop a deeper, more nuanced relationship with quinoa -- watch Melina Hammer turn one batch into 5 extraordinary dinners. 

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By now most of us know what quinoa is -- and that there are a million ways to enjoy this nutrient-packed food. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the typical routine of throwing something together and dumping it on top of a bowl of quinoa (plenty of delicious and low-maintenance meals have been made in this fashion), I like to explore the more nuanced recipes that make cooking and eating it more fun. Red quinoa is slightly earthier and more flavorful than white, and has become a tried-and-true staple in my home. Here are 5 ways to make it one in yours. 

Quinoa with Mint- and Parsley-Dressed Carrots, Olives, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, and Sumac
Place a serving of cooked quinoa into a bowl and, in little clusters, add your favorite olives, toasted sunflower seeds, and carrots (diced and dressed in a mixture of chopped mint, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice). Finish the bowl with a sprinkle of sumac. The savoriness of the olives, the brightness of the mint, carrots, and lemon, and the nuttiness of both the quinoa and the sunflower seeds make the dish really pop -- a wonderful and easy way to eat on any day.

Cashew Milk Red Quinoa Porridge with Spice, Fruit, and Maple 
Using this method, I make my own cashew milk, sweetened with maple syrup, and a little nutmeg -- but this recipe works with any non-dairy milk, store-bought or homemade. Cook the quinoa with the cashew milk as you would with water; once it's simmering, stir it every few minutes and add a tiny bit of water to free any quinoa stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once the tiny seeds are almost done cooking, add a small handful of frozen berries, and mix to combine. (If you have fresh berries, add them at the end, along with the banana slices.) Spoon the quinoa with the fruit into bowls, and add a little more nutmeg, a shake or two of cinnamon, and just enough maple syrup for a sweetness. This is incredibly soothing and a perfect way to start (or end!) your day off right. 

Celery, Pea, and Shallot Quinoa Salad
Cut the shallots into halves or quarters, and place them in a cast iron skillet, cooking over medium heat until they are browned and translucent. Slice the celery, blanch and shock the peas (frozen is fine, too), then add them both to a large bowl with the quinoa. Add the shallots once they have cooled to room temperature. Drizzle the mixture with olive oil and lemon juice, season with flakes of grey salt, and crack some pepper over the whole thing. If you seek a little extra butteriness, toasted pine nuts will do the trick. 

Crispy Shrimp & Red Quinoa Patties
I love lentil and other non-meat patties, so I thought a version made with red quinoa and sweet cooked shrimp would be equally great. They are so good that they don't last long -- and though I'm always sorry to see them go, making a new batch is (thankfully) a quick and simple affair. 

Lemony Red Quinoa Tabbouleh
Combine cooked quinoa and a few handfuls of chopped fresh parsley. Add half of a finely diced tomato, when in season; a few spoonfuls of freshly squeezed lemon juice; and a little bit of good olive oil. Season lightly with sea salt -- to your taste -- and grill up some whole-grain pita to go alongside. For crunch, toast almond slivers and scatter them on top of the tabbouleh. It's simple, really -- and pretty sublime.

Crispy Shrimp & Red Quinoa Patties

Makes nine 3-inch patties

1 1/2 cups red quinoa, cooked and cooled to room temperature 
9 to 12 shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces, and cooked
2 to 3 tablespoons coarse bread crumbs
3 tablespoons flax meal
1 small red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons eggs (free-range if possible)
tablespoons Greek yogurt, plus 1/2 cup for topping
1 red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons harissa paste 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Melina Hammer

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  • Anna Pieta
    Anna Pieta
  • Eleaca Brunow Young
    Eleaca Brunow Young
  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • AntoniaJames
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.


Anna P. April 14, 2014
The link to access the first two recipes seems to be missing. Would love to check them out!!
Eleaca B. April 7, 2014
I am going to have to pin this to do later. thanks!
Melina H. April 9, 2014
Excellent! Can't wait to hear how you like it.
Melina H. April 7, 2014
Good catch! And theoretically, making a small batch with the shrimp patties in mind - to use the shrimp shells and make the flavors extra gusto - would be another detail worth noting. The slipperiness of tidy wording...
Melina H. April 7, 2014
Five meals! That porridge is no slouch - great for any time of the day. The quinoa is cooked in the cashew milk, swapped for the usual water (with just a little more stirring). Try and see for yourself! :)
AntoniaJames April 7, 2014
I'm not suggesting it's not a meal. I'm observing that the title of the post suggests that you can make "one batch" of quinoa to use for five dinners. That's just not the case. You make one batch, and use it for four dinners. You need to make the porridge anew, whether you're eating for dinner or some other meal. ;o)
Kenzi W. April 7, 2014
Thanks for the input, AJ! We've updated the title to reflect your comment.
AntoniaJames April 7, 2014
Where's the fifth dinner made with the quinoa you cooked at the beginning of the week? I see four, and a fifth that appears to involving cooking raw quinoa with nut milk to make porridge. The title of this piece therefore seems misleading. Or do you cook the cooked quinoa in the nut milk? ;o) ;o)