Confession: I don’t love quinoa. I know it’s good for you, and I’ve tried to make myself like it. But I just don’t. That is, until I made this salad. In this salad, I actually love quinoa. Some years ago, I was working as a personal chef for a vegetarian family and in looking for inspiration, came across this Food and Wine recipe and decided to adapt it to make my own similar version. I had never been a fan of quinoa because I felt like it had an earthy (as in dirty, not umami) taste and when I’d had it prepared, it was usually terribly under seasoned. That’s why this salad is the savior of quinoa haters. Because there are so many incredible, bold spices in this, it completely masks the “funk” of quinoa and it’s aggressively seasoned so it’s not just a boring, healthy grain bowl that you eat just because it's good for you and not because you actually want to. You will WANT to eat quinoa in this salad from here to eternity, I promise you.
First you’ll make a spice mix that includes really delicious warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cayenne, and ginger, and then that spice mix gets distributed into every element of the salad… tossed with the carrots, onions, and fennel before roasting, into the quinoa as it cooks, as well as in the salad dressing, so every bite is packed with flavor. There is some maple syrup in the dressing as well as dried fruit to give it delightful flashes of sweetness, lemon juice for a subtle tang, toasted pine nuts for crunch and nuttiness, and then parsley and micro greens to finish and brighten it up.
Aaaand as a bonus, this salad is allergen friendly, gluten free and vegan! Oddly enough, I do have a few friends that are allergic to quinoa, and if that’s the case with you, wheat berries, farro, pearled barley, brown rice, or couscous would also work well in the place of quinoa here. I traditionally roast fennel with the carrots because I think it adds an awesome flavor and texture that really works in this salad, but if you want to use another vegetable in it’s place or just use carrots to keep it more simple, that would be fine! It will be hard to mess up this salad and adapting it to suit your preferences should be easy.
This post is my contribution to another big collaboration of bloggers celebrating a seasonal ingredient and this time the theme was carrots! When Rebecca from and Annie from reached out to me to ask me to be part of this combined effort, I immediately knew I wanted to make this salad for it.
There are too many amazing recipes to mention, as we have about 70 participants, but here are just a few titles that caught my eye:
And if you want more inspiration, you can see more carrot recipes by using the hashtag on Instagram #24carrotgoals. Come check it out if you’re on IG!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
300 grams/ 2/3 lbs fingerling carrots, halved lengthwise (or about 3 large, cut into pieces roughly the size of your pinky)
1 large bulb of fennel, stalks removed and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup uncooked tri-color quinoa
2 tsp spice mix
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 Tbs flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
microgreens and/or arugula, for serving
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp dijon
3 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp spice mix
1/2 tsp salt
WHAT YOU'LL DO
Preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C.
In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients for your spice mix.
In a medium bowl, toss the sliced carrots, fennel, and onion with 2 Tbs olive oil. Add 2 Tbs of the spice mix and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for roughly 20- 25 minutes, stirring to redistribute from the edges at least once. When tender and caramelized, remove and let the vegetables cool on the pan.
Meanwhile, in a small pot or medium saucepan with lid, combine the quinoa with 2 tsp of the spice mix and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, on medium-high heat. Once at a rolling boil, turn your heat down to low, simmer, and cover until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and let cool.
Combine all your ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified. Set aside.
Transfer your cooled quinoa to a larger mixing bowl. Add your cranberries and pine nuts along with the chopped parsely. Then add the roasted carrots, fennel, and onion to the bowl. Mix to combine. Pour in your dressing and mix to combine again. Taste and season with more salt, if needed. At this point the salad keeps well for days in the refrigerator.
Top with micro greens and serve over a bed of arugula, if desired.
If not serving immediately or making this salad to enjoy for lunch over multiple days, keep the greens separate so they don’t wilt. This salad is best served at room temperature and serves 4.