Quinoa salad à la 1999

In 1999, before quinoa was common on even our Bay Area menus, I came across this recipe in the staff lounge of the Berkeley middle school I was working at as a first year teacher. This middle school’s garden and cooking program regularly fed the staff their leftovers in the lounge, accompanied by photocopies of the handwritten recipes students followed, prepared and shared.

This recipe found me in the opening years of a necessary food re-education. Raised heavily on processed foods, it was only the previous year, in grad school, that my more sophisticated classmates introduced me to cheese that didn’t come as individually wrapped slices. The Berkeley Bowl market’s bulk section was introducing me to grains and flours I’d never even heard of. Their produce section showed me that there was more to life than iceberg lettuce, flavorless tomatoes and russet potatoes. By 1999, I was on a roll. Quinoa salad was new to me, but food like that no longer seemed exotic.

This can be filling enough to be a meal. Make it on Sunday so you can pack some of it for your weekday lunches. Have it as a lunch or dinner side. Bring it to a potluck. If you’ve never had quinoa, this is a fantastic introduction. If you have had quinoa before, add this super tasty dish to your repertoire. Someone will ask you for the recipe, no doubt.


Tricolored quinoa, white quinoa, red quinoa, quinoa flakes


For the dressing

Zest and juice of 1 lemon (zest the lemon first, otherwise, I hope you have a spare lemon)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cumin

For the salad

1 cup quinoa (not the flakes – any color is fine)
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 of a bell pepper (I prefer red, but you can always choose more than one color!)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons currants

How to

In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.

For the salad, bring the water to a boil, then add the salt and quinoa. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. All the water will likely be gone by the time the quinoa is ready, but if it’s not, just strain it in a mesh colander.

Fluff up the quinoa before letting it cool for about 10-15 minutes. I usually try to speed this up a bit by putting the quinoa in a bowl and sticking it in the freezer for about 5 minutes.

Ideally, you’re adding all the salad ingredients together with the quinoa at room temperature, but if it’s still a little warm because like me, you are impatient with cooling times, it’s not the end of the world.

Add the dressing to the salad and mix to combine. ¡Buen provecho, friends!

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