Tuesday, August 24, 2010

lemon cranberry quinoa salad

     For a while, Wholefoods was offering a delicious quinoa salad in their prepared foods section. When I ate lunch there, I invariably chose this dish because I would be craving that sweet-tart flavor (and probably the nutritional value of the quinoa) at all other times, and eventually I started buying larger quantities to bring home for the rest of the week. However, the retail price of $8.99 per pound (!) was really starting to add up. On top of that, they didn't always have it, so sometimes I was left standing there in front of the case, hoping upon hope that I had just missed it the first time I looked, scanning the dishes over and over again until I resigned myself, dejectedly, to finding something else to eat.
     In an attempt to make this menu item more readily available and economically sustainable for me, I wrote the store an e-mail requesting the recipe. Although I received a prompt, polite response from the store manager, I was disappointed - dismayed, even - with the answer. Apparently, they were "unable" to share the recipe. That was hard to swallow, because "lemon cranberry quinoa" had become my favorite thing to eat and because I had heretofore been spoiled by the helpfulness of the Wholefoods staff. This policy, however, was blatantly, purposefully unhelpful.
     Since seeking employment at Wholefoods solely to acquire this recipe seemed a little too extreme, Plan B was to try to figure it out myself. Although I had the list of ingredients from the print-out label that the employee stuck on the container, this task was not as easy as it might sound; proportions are everything. Yet finally, after multiple attempts that fell tragically short of the original, I have come up with a very acceptable re-creation. Perhaps there is no greater teacher than the process of trial and error.
     All melodrama aside, now I make this almost every week, and I am proud and excited to share it with you. 

1 cup yellow quinoa
1 cup water
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 T. ground coriander
1/2 T. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
pepper to taste
Half a red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 bunch (about six) green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 large handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Soak your quinoa in a bowl of water and rub the quinoa between your fingers a bit to help remove the bitter-tasting saponin that the seed uses as its natural defense against insects. Rinse and drain the quinoa a few more times before cooking.
Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a covered saucepan, then reduce the heat and simmer for 13 minutes. Set a timer, because mushy, overcooked quinoa really doesn't work for this recipe. If, after 13 minutes, there is still any water left in the saucepan, drain it. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and allow it to cool.
Toss the cooked quinoa with the lemon juice. Add the coriander, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and stir to coat evenly. Add the pepper, green onions, cranberries and cilantro and stir to combine.

You can serve this at room temperature or chilled. I usually double this recipe because it keeps well for several days in the fridge and I love having it on hand for lunch. My husband likes to take it with him to work for lunch, too.

For more on the benefits of quinoa, see our previous post on pesto grilled vegetables with Israeli couscous, quinoa and baby chickpeas.


  1. Now I know what to do with the bag of quinoa that has been sitting on my shelf, owned by a puzzled cook!

  2. Wow, Cheryl. Up early today. Insomnia or did someone bark to go outside.

    I agree. It is a wonderful recipe. I might add a few strands of saffron to the mix, though. I bought a pretty little bottle of it from Trader Joe's, when we still had access to TJ's.


  3. Thanks you two. This might be the recipe I am most proud of on the blog so far, since it took Stefanie some real chops to figure it out. It is one of the best whole grain salads I've had.

  4. i think this may be the recipe you are looking for: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/544

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  6. Thank you so much for this delicious recipe. I'm posting an interpretation on my blog, http://fullthymestudent.com/ I just knew somebody else in this world would try to make that Whole Foods quinoa salad. It is literally the best salad I've ever had. Thank you!!!

  7. This is absolutely delicious and does taste like whole foods which is 10.99 per lb now. I made it tonight couldn't find yellow quinoa so used white but it is so good.