Simple, yet special, recipes for the home chef.

Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing

Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing - A protein-packed salad that will leave you satisfied! |
This post should really be titled “how I actually learned to LOVE quinoa.” To say it’s trendy would be a huge understatement (90% of Pinterest seems to be things you can make with quinoa). And I know it’s good for you, because I can still recite the spiel I learned from when I worked at a salad bar for three months:  “Quinoa is a superfood. It is very high in protein, and gluten-free. It is a complete protein, because it contains all of the amino acids.” I robotically repeated this about 20 times a day when customers would ask “what’s keen-owe-ahh?” or “queen-oh-weee, what’s that?”

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.”

Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing - A protein-packed salad that will leave you satisfied! |

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 - A protein-packed salad that will leave you satisfied! |

This steak and quinoa salad couldn’t be easier, and it’s great all year round if you have an indoor grill pan, or if you don’t mind grilling outside in the cold weather (I don’t). It uses a basic marinade that lends a bit of flavor to the meat without overpowering it. I chose to make an avocado-lime ranch dressing for this, but this salad would also be good with a basic balsamic vinaigrette (you could just slice the avocado and include it in the salad, or just omit the avocado altogether). I love all of the different textures in this salad, and it’s a complete meal – you get your vegetables, meat, dairy and grains all in one bowl! Oh, and did I mention that quinoa is very high in protein?

Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing - A protein-packed salad that will leave you satisfied! |

Steak-Quinoa Salad with Avocado-Lime Ranch Dressing

Yield: 4 servings


  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 degrees F 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.


10 Responses to “Tomato & Roasted Lemon Salad”

  1. Susan — August 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    This recipe sounds very nice, and I am very curious as to where the pomegranate syrup would have gone.  I haven’t had any in years, but I really like pomegranate syrup.  I think it would be worth trying.


    • Lori Yates replied: — August 21st, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

      Hi Susan – I used balsamic vinegar where the pomegranate syrup would have gone, so it was part of the dressing on the salad itself. I just have soooo many half-used ingredients in my cupboards, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy one more, if only for a tablespoon of it. Although, I’m sure it would have added a really great flavor!

    • Susan replied: — August 21st, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

      Thanks for the info, Lori.  I’m not sure I can justify buying pomegranate molasses, either, but it is good to know where it goes in the recipe in case I do buy it.  Balsamic vinegar is an excellent substitution IMO.

    • Lori Yates replied: — August 26th, 2014 @ 9:33 am

      Sometimes I wish you could buy specialty ingredients like this in little 2 tablespoon packages. Of course, all of the packaging would be bad for the environment, but it would be so nice in instances like this :)

  2. Gourmet Getaways — August 20, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Roasting lemons brings out the best in its flavours! I love bright salads such as this :)

    Gourmet Getaways


    • Lori Yates replied: — August 21st, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

      Yeah, I definitely think I’m going to start roasting lemons more often now :)

  3. hubstown — August 21, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I have to be honest . . . I was a little afraid of eating a lemon rind when you first put the salad in front of me.  However, with the slight charring they actually become quite tasty.  I would be more than willing to eat a dish with roasted lemon any time. 


    • Lori Yates replied: — August 21st, 2014 @ 3:53 pm

      How about a PIZZA with roasted lemon? Could be interesting.

  4. Maggie — August 25, 2014 at 1:14 am

    wow, I love tomatoes! I bet this salad smells amazing as you prepare it, will def try!


    • Lori Yates replied: — August 26th, 2014 @ 9:34 am

      Thanks Maggie! I LOVED the smell of roasted lemons coming from the oven! It perfumed my whole house :)

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