Working Lunch: Quinoa Salad

A good meeting is one that starts on time and ends at least 30 minutes before you think it will. A great meeting is that plus good food. When I host a meeting, I can’t promise that it will end early, but I can assure you there will be good food. It’s been hot here, I think I may have mentioned that a time or ten. So I wanted a light lunch but I also needed something I could make ahead and serve up without a lot of work.

I also needed to serve up a gluten-free option. Since no one in my house has any dietary sensitivities, I’ll admit I don’t think much about these kinds of things. We eat pretty healthy most of the time, but I had been looking for some new options with quinoa anyway and this was a great opportunity to try something new. I should caution you though, normally I wouldn’t serve a new, untested recipe as such a major part of a meal. Since I was making the salad ahead, I felt like I had enough time to whip out something else if this didn’t work.

My menu:

  • Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets – pounded and reserved for last minute frying
  • Quinoa Salad – made ahead
  • Lemon Almond Tart – made ahead

I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so I pounded them flat and used a standard recipe for Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets. I started these about 20 minutes before I expected my colleagues. In that time I could fry up three cutlets, tent them with foil, and clean up the pan before anyone arrived. I make chicken cutlets all the time so I won’t bore you with the details. You can check out one of my favorite recipes for Crispy Parmesan Chicken from Cook’s Country.

I had some quinoa in the pantry waiting on me to do something with it. And this gluten-free meal was the perfect opportunity. So I trolled the interwebs for a few minutes before deciding on this Quinoa Salad recipe from the Food Network. It was light, cold, and had lots of things in it that I like to eat. It sounded like, with the chicken, it would be a full meal. Plus, it made a lot! Leftovers were a bonus! I made the salad the day before, but didn’t add the tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, the only decent thing you can get before June) and the avocados until I was ready to serve.

Quinoa Salad

Recipe adapted from Food Network

  • 12 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 container of grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 bunches mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced, for garnish

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the quinoa, stir once, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, over medium heat for 12 minutes. Strain and rinse well with cold water, shaking the sieve well to remove all moisture.

When dry, transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Add the cucumbers, onion, parsley, mint, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and toss well. Top with avocado and halved grape tomatoes, and serve. Garnish with parsley or mint.

This isn’t really cooking. It’s assembling. Anyone can do it. And quinoa is cute and hairy, so give it a whirl!

Then stick it in the fridge overnight. It lets the flavors absorb and makes it nice and cold.

Plate it up on a nice platter, spreading the tomato halves and avocado slices over the top. I stuck a bunch of mint on top for garnish. Pretty AND tasty!

It is such a good salad! And my colleagues loved the lunch. Check out the dessert portion of the meal on Wednesday!

Have you tried quinoa? Do you have a favorite recipe? I think I’ll try it for breakfast next!


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