Quinoa is an ancient grain that has maintained its relevance. Its increasing menu popularity mirrors the growth of South American cuisines in American restaurants. The United Nations has even named 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. Valued for its protein content (it has more than any other grain), the convenience of its quick cooking time, and its versatility, quinoa is also an ideal ingredient for meatless meals your restaurant might be offering during Lent. Here are five creative quinoa salad ideas for spring.
Quinoa Grape and Curry Salad
Yield: 24 1-cup servings.
2½ qt. water
1 qt. red quinoa, well-rinsed
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. kosher salt
2 qt. green and red grapes, halved lengthwise
3 cups celery, thinly sliced
3 cups toasted walnuts, chopped
2 cups radishes, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
¾ cup jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
½ cup fresh dill weed, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. curry powder
¾ cup white wine vinegar
1-1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat, cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until quinoa is just tender. Do not overcook. Drain any excess water.
Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Stir in the grapes, celery, walnuts, radishes, scallions, jalapeno pepper and dill weed.
To prepare curry vinaigrette: In a small bowl, mash the garlic and salt together until it forms a paste. Add curry powder and mix well. Add vinegar, olive oil and pepper. Mix well. Pour curry vinaigrette over quinoa mixture and mix gently.
Recipe and photo courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission
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Quinoa Pilaf with Raspberries
Yield: 4 servings.
1½ cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
¾ cups quinoa
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup dried currants
6 oz. fresh raspberries
In a medium saucepan, combine broth, quinoa and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fold parsley, walnuts, currants and raspberries gently into hot quinoa. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Driscoll’s
Warm Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad
From: Chef Matthew Prentice, Farmington Hills, MI. Yield: 1 serving.
Warm Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad:
½ cup oven-roasted cauliflower
½ cup cooked quinoa
1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
12 oven-roasted grapes
3 oz. warm maple mustard dressing (recipe follows)
Maple Mustard Dressing:
10 garlic cloves
3½ cups pure maple syrup
1 cup whole grain mustard
½ cup Dijon mustard
4 cups cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. white pepper
12 cups 80/20 olive oil blend
For salad: Hold ingredients at room temperature until ordered. Hold dressing in a warmer. Combine all and toss together. Garnish with fresh chives.
For maple mustard dressing: In a food processor, finely mince the garlic and shallots. Add the next 6 ingredients and blend well. Slowly add oil until it is all emulsified. Chill until needed. Prior to service, bring the dressing up to 145°F and hold for service.
Recipe and photo courtesy of chef Matthew Prentice
More quinoa recipes:
• Mango Quinoa Salad 
• Peruvian Quinoa Salad