Quinoa, Spinach, and Parsley Salad with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

Quin-what? Close. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is a grain/seed. You can cook it exactly as you would cook rice. It’s growing in popularity because of the trend for gluten-free foods, but it’s been around forever. Like a few thousand years according to Wikipedia.

Something about it screams of the 1970′s health-food store to me. I picture men with long hair, Birkenstocks, and everything in golden wheat color.  But that’s just my imagination, as quinoa can be found pretty much anywhere. I even spotted it at the drugstore last week.

Quinoa Lemon & Parsley Lemon & Parsley Quinoa

And it’s really good. It’s a very nice change of pace from rice or pasta. You can eat it on its own, but where it shines and works really amazingly is as a base for all kinds of salads.

The Banker (a.k.a. my other half) has been studying for months now for the Certified Financial Planner exam, which he takes in just a week now. I swear he’s worked harder at this than I ever did at passing the Bar Exam. And that was very hard for me to do, because I generally hate passing any sort of bar. (That is a joke — bad lawyer humor. Ha ha.)

Spinach Quinoa Quinoa Spinach

Well, getting back to the point, the Banker’s study buddy is one of those gluten-free kind of gals. So, on the nights when she was over to study I got to try my hand at making some nice gluten-free options. Knowing my priorities the first thing that I made was a flourless chocolate cake. But neither man nor woman can live on flourless chocolate cakes alone  (unfortunately), so my next thought was a nice quinoa salad.

I made a curried quinoa salad with chicken that was a bit of a riff on a recipe I saw in Bon Appetit a few months ago. That original recipe, linked to here, called for spelt not quinoa. It was a hit.

Quinoa & Spinach Salad

This recipe, for a quinoa salad with spinach and parsley, is also a hit. It’s light and fresh. It tastes like summer. You could have it as a light lunch or a side for dinner alongside just about anything that came off a grill (or a grill pan, for those of us that live in multi-unit dwellings and don’t have grills).

Other than cooking of the quinoa, nothing else is cooked in this salad, so it’s especially nice on a hot day when the idea of turning on the oven doesn’t thrill you. I love the tangy creaminess of the dressing with the fresh taste of lemon and parsley. This is one of those salads that you could eat every day and never tire of.

Quinoa & Spinach Salad

This recipe was inspired by and adapted from a recipe in Patricia Wells’ book, Salad as a Meal, which practically jumped out at me on a trip to the public library last week.

Quinoa, Spinach, and Parsley Salad with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
Cook time
Total time
A simple and easy salad for a light lunch, or as a side for dinner. This would go great with anything sort of grilled meat for a summertime meal.
Serves: 4
For the Quinoa:
  • 1.5 cups (255 g) quinoa
  • 2 cups (325 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup (187 ml) water
  • 1 tsp. (6 g) salt
  • 2 bay leaves
For the Salad:
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 4 scallions, white part only, sliced very thin (reserve the greens for the vinaigrette below)
  • 1 bunch spinach (5 to 8 oz), washed and rinsed, stems removed
For the Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. (3 g) salt
  • 1 cup (187 ml) plain yogurt or half-and-half
  • ⅓ cup (33 g) finely chopped scallion greens
To make the quinoa:
  1. Toast the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is making crackling sounds and smelling toasty.
  2. Transfer the quinoa to a fine-meshed sieve and run it under cold water to rinse it.
  3. Put the quinoa in a medium saucepan with the stock, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the quinoa sit another 10 minutes, covered. Remove the bay leaves.
To prepare the rest of the salad:
  1. While the quinoa is cooking, put the parsley leaves, olive oil, and the 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) of lemon juice into a food processor and process until finely blended.*
  2. Prepare the scallions and spinach. Once you’ve cleaned and de-stemmed the spinach, cut it across the leaves into thin strips, making ribbons of spinach (a.k.a chiffonade).
  3. To make the Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette, combine in a small jar with a lid the 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) of lemon juice with the yogurt, salt, and scallion greens.
  4. Shake well to incorporate everything, then taste for seasoning adding more salt and some black pepper if desired.
Salad Assembly
  1. Add the parsley mixture and scallions to the quinoa, just to combine everything.
  2. In a separate bowl, toss the spinach with just enough of the Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens.
  3. Add the quinoa to the spinach and toss it all together gently.
  4. All done! A sprinkle of salt and/or pepper is a good idea here if your taste tells you it needs it.
* To do this without a food processor, just mince the parsley leaves and combine with the olive oil and lemon juice. How long this salad will last, when kept in the refrigerator, is a function of how long the spinach stays fresh before turning brown. The lemon in the salad helps prevent that significantly, but individual results will vary depending on your particular spinach. In general, this is just fine the next day.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

istellechray July 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I throw quinoa into meals as often as possible. Even into a breakfast hash (Huckleberry ripoff). And I love anything lemon and parsley. So this looks like something I will make often.


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