In Austin we lived across the street from this fantastic local diner called Snack Bar. It was there that I had my first quinoa experience, timidly asking the server for the kwin-o-a. “Oh, the keen-wa?” she replied. While, quinoa has become a staple in my diet since then and I am happy to say I can now order it with confidence, I have always remained partial to the way they served it at Snack Bar. Here, I have tried to recreate their sweet and subtly spicy quinoa salad.
First, I opted for the 3-grain quinoa as opposed to the standard white or red because it really makes the dish a lot prettier. (Although, any quinoa will still taste delicious!) You should be able to buy it in the bulk section of your local health food store. Here in Charlotte, Healthy Home Market is my stop. But, choosing the right quinoa for aesthetics was the easy part, I knew it had to be cooked so that it was loaded with flavor and somewhat hearty. Thankfully, I found this wonderful blog post on how to cook fluffy, tasty quinoa.
To make the quinoa for this dish I followed theKitchn’s directions, but with a few adaptations.
- I used 1 1/2 cups of quinoa, 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and 1 1/2 cups water. This made it flavorful without the vegetable broth taste taking over the dish and yielded the perfect amount for this recipe.
- I let the quinoa cook for 20 minutes because it was still way too watery after 15.
- After removing it from the heat and allowing it to sit covered for 5 minutes, I let it cool uncovered at room temperature before putting it a sealed container in the fridge. This helped to let any additional moisture out and helped to ensure that it was light and fluffy.
For the dressing, I used a combination of pineapple juice, olive oil, and pickled hot banana peppers with a little red wine vinegar and salt to make it taste completed. Even if you aren’t a fan of spice, the hot banana peppers are what you want, it gives the dressing a hint of banana-pepper flavor, but it will not be hot. I promise.
I served this salad as a first course when I photographed it, so the portion pictured is really about 1/2 a serving. Everyone loved it as a first course, but this salad is definitely hearty enough to be a main dish.
Quinoa Salad with Pineapple-Banana Pepper Vinaigrette
20 minutes, not including cooking and cooling the quinoa
Yields 4-6 Servings
5-5 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
2 cups arugula
3 cups of pineapple cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup Pineapple-Banana Pepper Vinaigrette
For the Pineapple-Banana Pepper Vinaigrette
3 tbsp. chopped banana pepper
4 tbsp. pickled banana pepper juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. pineapple juice
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
Blend the dressing ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Mix together the all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl except the avocado and toss with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Add the avocado just before serving.