Nutty Quinoa Salad

Happy Labor Day! As the last unofficial day of summer, many will be grilling out or picnicking today. But as school and work hit the fall season, whether you're at home or the office and the kids are in front of their computers or in a classroom, everyone still needs to eat. So dishes that come together quickly, feed a crowd, and will keep for a week are always invited to the table.

This quinoa-based salad gets a lot of its flavor and texture from nuts - in both the dressing and as a topping - but it doesn't stop there. Crunchy fresh vegetables and lots of strong flavors come tother to make this a very sought after and memorable dish, whether it's being served as a side alongside grilled or roasted meats or as a fantastic make ahead lunch that will keep everyone satisfied until dinner.

I like using maple syrup in the dressing, but I also have access to a ready supply of the stuff. You can also opt for honey if that's easier to come by. A strong salad green is also a great addition and I used purple-red amaranth leaves, but you can use something more easily procured like spinach or arugula - or grab what you have growing in your garden! Be flexible and enjoy a salad that is happy to help you in that goal.

Nutty Quinoa Salad

For the salad:
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped amaranth leaves, spinach leaves, or arugula leaves
  • ½ cup chopped mixed nuts
For the dressing:
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the quinoa with fork; place it in a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the remaining vegetables (cabbage through amaranth or other leaves) and set aside.

Add the peanut butter and maple syrup to a medium microwave-safe bowl; heat the mixture in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add in the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.

Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. Next, fold in the prepared vegetables into the quinoa. Garnish with the chopped nuts. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes