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Recipes from Mexico: Quinoa Salad

During my stay at Rancho La Puerta, in Baja California, Mexico I had the privilege of taking a cooking class at La Cocina que Canta with visiting chef, David Cohen. You may have caught my other post about this experience, which included a recipe for a delicious Watermelon Gazpacho.

Today, we’ll take a look at another dish the class worked on.

Quinoa Salad

I am obsessed with quinoa. I love the taste, texture, and versatility. I had never tried it before living in Argentina, and now I don’t know how I ever lived without it. It’s especially awesome for someone like me, who hates to prepare meat and/or doesn’t feel the need to have meat in every meal. A serving of quinoa packs around 18g of protein, so no meat is needed.

Quinoa Salad with Shiitakes, Fennel, Asian Greens, and Pine Nuts

quinoa salad

Quinoa Salad


2 cups quinoa
1 quart water
1/4 cup peanut oil
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced fennel (about 1 large bulb)
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup sliced green onions, both white and green parts (about 1 bunch)
1 cup Asian greens chopped to bite size pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

How to make It

1. Rinse the quinoa under cool running water, then drain well with a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer. Sidenote: I always buy the pre-rinsed stuff because I tend to make a disastrous mess when I attempt to drain the teeny tiny grains

Heat a woke over medium-high heat and toast the quinoa, shaking the pan frequently, just until the grains are dry, are just beginning to color, and have a nutty aroma (about 4 minutes). Set aside in a bowl.

2. In a medium, lidded pot, bring 1 quart of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa with a pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tener and the germ has spiraled out from the grain (12-15 minutes, be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat the wok again over high heat. Add the peanut oil and heat until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the garlic and fry, stirring constantly, just until the garlic is golden (about 30 seconds). Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon, keeping the oil in the pan, and set aside.

4. Add the fennel to the oil and fry, stirring or tossing frequently, until it is caramelized (5-7 minutes). Remove from the oil and set aside. Add the shiitakes to the oil and stir-fry just until the green onions begin to wilt (1-2 minutes). Add the soy sauce and vinegar to the mixture and stir or toss to combine, then remove from heat.

5. In a large bowl, gently toss the quinoa with the warm shiitake-green onion mixture, the fennel, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, cilantro, lime zest, and juice. Season to taste with additional salt if desired. Serve immediately.

Thoughts from a non-chef

This may seem like a lot of work, but I’d say most of the work comes from the shopping trip. After that, it’s all chopping prep and then just a quick toss in the wok. Personally, I hate monitoring multiple items on the stove at once, so seeing as this only uses 1 wok, I’m a huge fan. It was certainly one of my favorite dishes from the class.

Stay tuned for more recipes from my class with Chef Cohen.

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