Gluten-free Summer Quinoa Salad

Editor’s note: This post is this week’s Friday Fit recipe. The idea is to try “real food” recipes that can be prepared on the weekend. Of course, each recipe can also be prepared during the week (that’s when I’m trying it), but with the hectic schedules of most, a recipe might be easier to try on the weekend when work is generally less of a factor. If you enjoy this article, please consider subscribing to my feed. Thanks.

Almost Fit - QuinoaWith the school year coming to a close, we had the end of the year picnic last weekend complete with a parachute, hula hoops, and a pot luck lunch spread. In addition to being a great time for the kids, one of the best things about such events is to see the variety in familial food culture. Our instructions were to bring a dish to share, and to bring our own plates, glasses, and utensils, so as to cut down on the waste. It was a great plan, and left very little to clean up.

In our case, we brought sandwiches using some of my freshly made loaves of bread (Can you make artisan bread like this? In only 5 minutes?). Other offerings included Asian noodles, enchiladas, and pizza, all of which quickly disappeared. There were simply too many good things to try, but by the end it was very clear that the quinoa salad in particular was a huge favorite.

Quinoa – the often forgotten grain

In a recent blog post by Lisa over at Iowa Avenue (What is Quinoa?), quinoa was featured as a great alternative to some of the grains most of us are more familiar with. Quinoa is a popular gluten-free alternative for folks that are sensitive to wheat, and has a better nutritional profile than many of the more common grains.

Here’s a quote from Lisa’s article that really got my attention:

“Health bonus: Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one’s needs than wheat protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.”

Lisa’s post at Iowa Avenue is an excellent primer on the benefits of quinoa and it’s history. It also includes a great Minestrone recipe. Well worth a visit.

Friday Fit Recipe #10: Gluten-free Summer Quinoa Salad

This recipe is a customized version of the salad we had at the picnic. Thanks to our friends C. and W. for the great recipe – it went particularly well with a salad made with organic greens from our garden, a light vinaigrette, and a roasted free range chicken, which was our dinner last night. It was excellent.


1 cup uncooked red quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, diced
1 cup artichoke hearts
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons of capers, to taste

Caramelized onions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 thinly sliced red onion

Basic vinaigrette dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice, with zest
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4-6 as a side dish


Bring the quinoa and water to boil. When the water boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. When cooked, quinoa has a texture similar to perfectly cooked pasta, or rice. Strain and rinse well under cold water.

While the quinoa is cooking, in a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until transparent.

Prepare the vinaigrette by combining the ingredients and whisking.

In a large salad bowl, toss all of the ingredients together, including caramelized onions and the vinaigrette.

To Serve

Serve cold or at room temperature. With very little to spoil, this would make an excellent accompaniment on a picnic. Couple this salad with fresh greens, chicken or fish for protein, and your wine of choice, and you have an excellent, healthy meal.


The original recipe did not include the artichoke hearts, but we found that it was a very flavorful addition.

Almost Fit Quinoa plated

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