Quinoa is an ancient plant with tiny seeds that has become wildly popular in recent years as a gluten-free stand-in for cereal grains. This “pseudo-grain” is also called a “superfood” for its supreme nutritional value. Not only is it packed with fiber and an array of vitamins and minerals, but it’s also one of the few plants that provides a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need. Quinoa is also prized for its versatility, with a mild, slightly beany taste and a fluffy, chewy texture that takes well to just about any flavor you pair it with. This hearty, vegan-friendly salad is a delicious example. It’s adapted slightly from “Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains.”
Serve it as a meal in itself or make it heartier by adding grilled or sauteed shrimp, chicken, or tofu. Double or triple the recipe and be the hit of the next potluck. Serves 2.
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
8 ounces carrots, cut into small chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, cut in ½-inch wedges
¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup roasted, roughly chopped pistachios
1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grated zest and juice of ½ of a large orange (about 2 tablespoons)
1 large avocado
Lemon or lime wedge
Place the quinoa in a small saucepan along with 1 1/3 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and cover with a lid.
Let simmer until the quinoa is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 -18 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid if necessary. If the water has absorbed but the quinoa isn’t fully tender, add a few more tablespoons of water and cook a few minutes longer. Set aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the carrots in a bowl and toss with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil (or just enough to coat), ½ teaspoon of salt, and the chile flakes. Spread the carrots out on half of a large sheet pan.
Place the onions in the same bowl and toss with about ½ tablespoon of the olive oil (or just enough to coat), ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Spread out on the other side of the pan.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast until the carrots and onions are tender and beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes. If one of the vegetables gets done before the other, remove it with a spatula to a large bowl and place the pan back in the oven for a few minutes longer until it’s also done to your liking, then add to the bowl.
Add the quinoa, pistachios, parsley, orange zest and juice, and 2 tablespoons of the oil to the bowl. Toss gently.
Halve and pit the avocado, scoop out the flesh with a spoon, cut it in chunks, and add it the bowl. Squeeze the lemon or lime wedge over it, drizzle with another tablespoon of oil, gently toss it again, and taste it. Add a little more oil, salt, chile flakes, or black pepper if desired.