Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad

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A couple weeks ago my favorite restaurant in Honolulu, Downtown @HiSAM, shut down.  Located inside the Hawaii State Art Museum (in the downtown area, as you might guess), it was a perfect place to meet up with friends for a leisurely lunch or, during more frantic days, grab something from their to-go counter.

Sure, I haven’t been able to partake in their panini or quiche plates for the past couple years, but I certainly haven’t been suffering.  Their antipasti mix salad plate pretty much represented my ideal diet: lots of vegetables, some whole grains, and the occasional touch of meat, fish or dairy.

The antipasti were simple, but they invariably combined ingredients I would never have thought to pair or used some sort of unusual preparation technique.  I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good cook, but I certainly don’t have the came culinary creativity of the folks who were running the show at Downtown.

I can, however, spot a good recipe when I see it.  And when I was looking through the October Food and Wine, I spotted a recipe for a dish that could have easily been served at Downtown.

 

 

The recipe in question?  A hearty quinoa salad with roasted carrots and onions infused with a punchy blend of spices like paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom.  It’s served over a bed of dressed greens and tossed with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts for sweetness, color and crunch.

 

 

Don’t be scared off by the long list of ingredients.  The preparation takes some time because there are several components to the dish, but it certainly isn’t difficult, especially if you’ve got a rice cooker.  If you’re looking to cut corners, I’d make double or triple of the spice mixture so that you’ll breeze right over those ingredients and steps next time you make it.

I can definitely foresee this being my new go-to potluck item for the holiday season.

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Spice Mix:
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Salad:
4 large carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup quinoa (you’ll want to rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer if the brand of quinoa you buy is not pre-rinsed)
1-3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 ounces mixed salad greens
salt and pepper
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/2 cup dried cranberries
* 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts, toasted until fragrant and lightly browned
* 3 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom, salt and black pepper. Stir well to mix.

In a medium bowl, toss the carrots, onion and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add 1 Tablespoon of the prepared spice mixture and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the carrots are tender and the garlic and onion is fragrant.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the quinoa. Either combine the quinoa, 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture and the water in a rice cooker or use a medium saucepan to cook on the stovetop. If you’re going with the latter route, combine the quinoa, 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture and the water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 17-19 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit for five minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork and let it cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil with 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the salad greens and toss to coat. Spread on a large platter.

Using the same large bowl, whisk the remaining 3 Tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon zest, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, mustard and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix. Add the quinoa, walnuts, cranberries, parsley and roasted vegetables and toss well. Spoon the quinoa mixture onto the bed of greens and serve.

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