May 13 2013

Quinoa in a Supporting Role

I can never eat enough quinoa – which is not to say that I consume quinoa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but rather that no amount of it seems to fill me. While I’m impressed with quinoa’s nutritional capabilities (it’s a mineral-rich complete protein, after all), I’m usually as hungry with my last bite as I was with my first. And it doesn’t matter what food I pair with this chenopod (the seed of the goosefoot plant) to flavor it or bulk it up. Quinoa as an entree doesn’t work. So, I’ve changed courses and decided to embrace quinoa as a side dish and nothing more. There’s less pressure on the quinoa and less grumbling from me.

In Vegetable Literacy, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s beautiful photo of black quinoa salad takes up an entire page. I’ve now flipped through the book many times, and have paused nearly every time to stare at that photo. I decided to slightly adapt their recipe by substituting fresh arugula for cooked beet greens. I was able to snip mint and chives from the two flourishing pots outside my kitchen, and cut a generous amount of bright arugula from our backyard raised bed. Along with sprinkling arugula into the salad – the peppery green easily livened up the fatty avocado – I saved some leaves for the other part of my lunch: an arugula and tomato jam sandwich. Although Madison claims that the serving size for this salad is four, I’m through with hunger-induced cranky afternoons following a lunch of quinoa. This is a salad I can easily adapt to different greens or herbs, making it an ideal stand-in for other less healthy sandwich accompaniments.

On a related note, many media outlets have recently published articles about quinoa’s production and global pricing. If you eat quinoa, take a moment to consider how quinoa is grown and the complicated position of Bolivia, one of the main exporters of quinoa. Consider reading this article from the New York Times or this one from Time to learn more.

But quinoa may not always remain an imported good: Northwest farmers are working on developing a variety that can flourish in less arid climates.

Avocado and Arugula Quinoa Salad

Recipe Inspired by Vegetable Literacy


  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa)
  • 8 ounces of arugula
  • Lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • sea salt
  • 10 slivered mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoons sliced chives
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Cheese of your choice, crumbled or slivered
  • Pistachios, chopped coarsely


  1. Cook the quinoa (1 cup uncooked quinoa yields around 2 cups cooked; cook 1 cup with 2 cups water; bring to a boil and then simmer for around 15 minutes) and then toss it with the arugula, distributing it evenly.
  2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking the lemon zest, juice, oil, cumin, and a pinch of salt together. Pour this over the quinoa and toss. Then add the mint and chives and toss. Add more salt as necessary.
  3. To finish, cover the quinoa mixture with avocado, cheese, and pistachios. Enjoy!