Easy dinner recipes: Three quinoa salad ideas for Gluten-Free Wednesday

Easy dinner recipes: Three quinoa salad ideas for Gluten-Free Wednesday
Recipe: Quinoa and kale salad (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Fan of quinoa? Perhaps not very familiar with it but curious? If you're looking for a great wheat-free alternative this Gluten-Free Wednesday, quinoa is a winner.

A South American grain-like crop, quinoa has come to be recognized as a nutrient-dense superfood. The seeds, or "grains" (quinoa is not a true cereal, though its seeds resemble and are used like grains) of the plant can be found at most supermarkets, and it can be cooked like rice, added to soups and stews, and even popped.


If you've never cooked with it before, here are a couple of tips: Rinse the grains under running water; they are coated with saponins (defensive compounds) that can give a finished dish a bitter taste if the seeds aren't rinsed before using. For extra depth of flavor, try toasting the quinoa before cooking it. After rinsing the grains, dry them in a towel, then toast them briefly in a dry skillet until they color slightly and have a nutty aroma.

To cook, place the rinsed grains in boiling water (1 part seeds to 2 parts water) and cook until the quinoa is translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Add the drained quinoa to salads, or flavor and serve as a side dish. Check out some of our recipe suggestions below.

Quinoa and kale salad: Kale and quinoa come together in this salad, accented with toasted garbanzo beans, celery, currants, piquillo peppers and lemon zest. Tossed with a bright red wine vinaigrette, the dish comes together in only 40 minutes.

Quinoa salad with grilled corn, tomatoes and cilantro: Combine quinoa to with corn, tomatoes, chile, green onions and a touch of salt. Toss in a light dressing of lime juice, oil, garlic and cumin for a refreshing dish that comes together in only 1 hour.

Quinoa lentil salad with tomatoes: Nutty quinoa, French lentils, fresh mint and parsley, a little garlic and some bright tomatoes make for a perfect summer salad, whether you're looking for a light main course or flexible side dish. (And if you don't tell, you're guests probably won't even suspect that it's vegetarian!) You can find the recipe below.


Total time: 50 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times | Serves 6

    1 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
    Salt and pepper
    1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, plus more for drizzling
    1 cup quinoa, rinsed and strained
    1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
    1/4 cup fresh parsley
    2 cups cherry or other little tomatoes, halved

1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Season the lentils with one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and drizzle over about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste the lentils, and adjust the seasoning or vinegar, or both, if desired. Set aside the lentils to cool, stirring occasionally.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cooking until the grain is soft and translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. The water should be absorbed; if not entirely absorbed, drain any excess. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on the grain and stir gently.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, one-fourth cup vinegar, one-half cup olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. Taste and add additional seasoning if desired.

4. Stir the cooled lentils in with the quinoa in the large bowl. Stir in the dressing, then cover and chill the salad for at least 1 hour.

5. Just before serving, stir in the mint, parsley and tomatoes and check the seasoning. Drizzle with a bit more vinegar and oil.

Each serving: 387 calories; 13 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 20 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 202 mg. sodium.

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