February 3, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday Recipe: Quinoa, bell pepper and green onion salad

~ Quinoa, bell pepper and green onion salad ~

During a recent phone call with my mother, she mentioned that she’d bought quinoa for the first time and was curious if I’d cooked with it before and if I had tips regarding its preparation. I have indeed, I informed her, and it’s really a delightful grain that lends itself beautifully to being paired with a myriad of other flavours (from dried cranberries to oven roasted tomatoes). I suggested preparing it with a tasty stock, some fresh herbs and whatever vegetables she fancied.

While I don’t cook quinoa as often as I do certain other grains like rice, barley and couscous, I do enjoy whipping up a dish with this adorable little ingredient (which is technically a cereal, not a grain, that’s related to the spinach plant) from time-to-time, and when I do, the recipe below is one that I often turn to. I put it together a few years ago after a different quinoa centered discussion with someone else, and adore how well this dish works in either its warm or cold state.

{This cheerfully lovely vintage sign for fresh sweet peppers would have definitely been enough to get me to pull over and check out the produce on offer at a roadside vegetable stand. These days however, you can spot it over at AllPosters.com, where it’s for $10.99 (for a 12 x 12 inch version).}

If you’ve never tried quinoa before, I highly recommend picking up a package (it’s available at nearly all well-stocked health food stores and most larger supermarkets). Quinoa, which is naturally gluten-free, is high in protein and essential amino acids, meaning that it works very well as a complete protein source. It’s also rich in fiber, iron, and magnesium. When cooked quinoa has a very pleasant, gentle, vaguely nutty flavour (it’s a bit reminiscent of brown rice) that makes it well suited to both savoury and sweet dishes (it makes a delightful alternative to oatmeal for breakfast or brunch when mixed with ingredients like fruit, nuts and honey).

Once cooked quinoa is light and fluffy, perfect for absorbing dressings and lending it’s gentle flavour to more robust vegetable and/or meat overtones. This particular salad is vegetarian, but you could toss in a handful of grilled meat or prawns for a heartier meal, or keep the vegetarian theme going by including zucchini, eggplant or any other veggie you wish for more substance.

All this talk of quinoa has me suddenly craving its mild, wonderful taste and soft yet slightly crunchy texture so much, I think I too will have to pick up a package the next time I’m out grocery shopping. In the meantime though, I’ll call up my mom to see how her first foray into quinoa cooking turned out.


• 1 1/2 cups quinoa (ensure that you buy the type which is labelled as having been washed so as to remove the slightly bitter outer coating that quinoa contains naturally)

• 3 cups water

• 1 green bell pepper (capsicum), chopped into even sized pieces

• 1 red bell pepper (capsicum), chopped into even sized pieces

• 1/4 cup chopped scallion (green onion), both green and white parts (if you don’t have green onions on hand try using leeks or chives instead)

• 1/4 cup chopped red onion

• 1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley (or other fresh herb of your choice, dill is particularly lovely with quinoa, I find)

• 4 tablespoons liquid honey

• ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
• 2 tbsp olive oil

• Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt (to taste)


In a medium-large saucepan (the heavier the bottom, the better) combine the three cups of water and quinoa; bring to a soft boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for about 13-18 minutes. You are aiming to have as much as possible of the liquid absorbed, much like a pot of rice, and for the quinoa to have softened.

Meanwhile combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper in a jar or bottle with a secure lid (one that won’t leak). Shake the mixture vigorously to emulsify the oil and vinegar. Store at room temperature until you are ready to dress the quinoa salad.

While the quinoa is cooking, dice all the vegetables and fry them for about two minutes over medium-high heat in a large non-stick frying pan or skillet (the scallion may only need a minute), just so that they sweat and release some of their natural oils. Remove from the heat, toss with the flat leaf parsley (or your choice or herbs), and stir into the quinoa once it’s finished cooking.

Pour the dressing over the veggie and quinoa mixture and toss lightly to coat all the grains. Serve warm or chilled. Any leftovers can be kept, covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight plastic container, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

This dish travels well and is absolutely perfect to take to summer picnics, backyard barbeques and potlucks all year round (you can easily multiple the recipe as needed).

Serves 2 people as a main dish, 4 people as a side dish or starter

Bon appétit!


  1. Did you know it is the only one that is a total protein? I need to eat more of it.
    Hugs, andrea

  2. Fabulous recipe my sweet Jessica !
    Thank you !

  3. Oh my capsicums in the garden are just starting to grow, now i know what to do with them when they ALL ripen together. Love Posie

  4. We love quinoa...the only really bad thing about it is spelling it. I always have to look and look to see if it is spelled right. For some reason this always seems like a spring/summer ingredient to me. I end up using couscous in the fall and winter.

  5. Hey! Thanks for stopping by and following my blog. I LOVE your blog, and am definately following now. I also linked you!


  6. Hello dear friend! I worked in a health food store for two years and never tired quinoa! I need to pick some up and give it a whirl :)

    Happy Thursday,

  7. I can't wait for Spring because that's when I'm going to try this recipe. Such a light, feel good edible. Perfect for a lunch in my backyard.

  8. I haven't eaten a lot of quinoa but I love couscous. They're good for my diabetes. low gycemic index.

  9. Jillian from "You Are What You Eat" on BBC America uses quinoa a lot in her meal plans (I'd never heard of it before seeing that show). I'll have to see if our health food store has this. Sounds interesting!

  10. Well I love peppers so I might just give this a try!

    Victoria x

  11. I've never even heard of quinoa! I love getting new recipes, thanks! And thanks so much for visiting me :)

  12. This sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  13. I have heard great things about quinoa but i've never tried it. I really should and this diet will be perfect to try it out! x

  14. I've recently gotten into liking peppers so I can't wait to try this. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Wonderful recipe! Can't wait to give it a try! Have a wonderfully delightful day!