I was always OK with quinoa – it was a fine side dish that was something different than brown rice. I’d been cooking it in a method similar to how I would cook rice – bring some water to a boil, add the quinoa, put a lid on, reduce the heat, and simmer until it was tender. It turned out fine – soft and nutty-flavored – but there was nothing about it that made me all like “YES. I want to eat this all the time.”
That all changed when I tried this method of quinoa cookery. There are a few big differences between this method and how I had been doing it all along. First, it turns out that maybe I wasn’t rinsing my quinoa long enough previously (there’s a bitter coating on the outside that can be removed by rinsing). I had always given it a quick rinse, but I had never washed it for 2 full minutes while rubbing the grains between my fingers. Second, I had never toasted the grains to first dry them out before adding the water. This is a method that I typically use for risotto, but I hadn’t thought to try it for quinoa. And third, I believe I was cooking my quinoa for too long before, based on some bad advice I had read elsewhere on the interwebs (I was cooking it 30 – 40 minutes, while this new method reduces that cooking time to just 15 minutes). I think these three changes made a HUGE difference in the end result – this quinoa was light and fluffy. While it was tender, it still had a bit of a chew to it (in a good way). It was excellent on it’s own, and also added to a salad.
Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 lb. flank steak
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/3 cup prepared ranch dressing (your favorite brand, or start with homemade)
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 ounces salad greens (whatever you want – I used 1/2 spring mix, 1/2 spinach)
1 cup cooked quinoa (prepared according to a half recipe of these directions)
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, oil, Worcestershire, lemon juice, brown sugar, cumin and cayenne. Place steak in large ziploc bag; pour marinade over steak. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together avocado, ranch dressing and lime juice until everything is nicely combined – you can leave the avocado chunky, or keep mashing until the mixture is smooth.
3. Preheat an outdoor grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Grill steak 8 to 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135° for medium-rare, flipping once halfway through cooking. Transfer to plate; let rest at least 5 minutes.
4. To serve, divide salad greens, quinoa, tomatoes, feta, onion and basil between 4 plates. Thinly slice steak across the grain, and divide between plates. Serve with dressing.