Quinoa Pilaf Salad

Quinoa salad
I am not a chef. I have zero cooking expertise. I am terrible at recipes.

However, as a vegan it is very difficult to cook healthy, interesting food without some sort of directions. I have subsisted on prepackaged unhealthy “vegan food,” mangled many complicated recipes trying to make them vegan, and force-fed myself many healthy vegan recipes that were just bland, cardboard-y, and generally unpleasant. So now, I spend a lot of time experimenting with things that are absurdly healthy, easy to make, and do not involve recipes or shopping for hard-to-find ingredients. Sometimes people come over and eat my cooking, and they don’t suffer from food poisoning. They even ask for recipes! But seriously, if you know how to cook you should probably go read a nice book or have a cup of tea instead, because this gets ugly.

Anyway, by popular demand, here is my first un-recipe. Just put the measuring cups away, you’ll only get frustrated. Most of the ingredients could be omitted in a pinch (probably not the quinoa though, then you would just have a bizarre soup).

You will need:

  • A large-ish pot
  • your oil of choice (coconut or olive are great healthy options)
  • any colour quinoa (rinsed, ready to cook)
  • a cooking onion (you can use stock instead of onion & carrot, but this has less sodium and tastes much better)
  • a carrot
  • a handful of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, whatever)
  • a handful of nuts (walnuts, almonds – choose something that goes well with whatever fruit you’re using)
  • Cumin seeds (you can use powder in a pinch, just don’t toast it)

Optional:

  • Chickpeas
  • Greens (I like to serve this as a salad tossed with spinach)
  • A fresh fruit (apple, pear, something you can slice – this makes it crunchy and awesome)

Anti-method:

You can follow my directions. Or not. Maybe you could make something more delicious without them, who knows.

  1. Cut the onion and carrot up into small pieces. Put them into a decent sized pot with some oil, on a stove, with the heat turned low-ish. You don’t want the onions to go brown, just translucent.
  2. When the onion is translucent, add cumin seeds and stir them around until they start to smell strongly. Then add the nuts until they’re toasted. Make sure you stir consistently and watch carefully because they’ll burn quickly.
  3. Add the quinoa, toast it a little bit. It starts to smell a little bit nutty when it’s toasted – don’t do it for too long though, better to have it less toasted than burned and it’s hard to tell sometimes. If you’re using chickpeas, this is a good time to chuck them in.
  4. Add some water, and your dried fruit of choice. Don’t put too much water, it’s a lot easier to add more than to try to drain it after you’ve put too much. I usually start with the quinoa just covered and then taste it when the water has all been absorbed. If it’s crunchy, add more water and cook it more. Or, you know, follow the directions on the quinoa box. If you’re into that sort of thing.
  5. When it’s done, let it sit for a minute or two and fluff it up so it’s not mushy. You can just eat it as is and it is delicious! However, I try to avoid just chowing down on grains because I would devour far too much – so I like to toss it with some dark greens (spinach is good!) and a chopped apple. You can eat it hot or cold.
  6. You’ll notice I didn’t mention salt – but you may not taste that I didn’t mention salt! I love salt, but we tend to eat way too much. Try it without salt first, you may be surprised…and if you think I’m crazy after you take a bite, then salt away to your heart’s content.

If my stream-of-consciousness directions are too hard to follow, just make it up as you go along. Throw caution to the wind! I bet it’ll be awesome :)