I’ve been on sort of a never-ending quest to find the perfect lunch salad. It’s tricky business because you want something that had plenty of filling ingredients so you can make it through the afternoon. Ideally, it would also keep really well so you can take it for an entire week.
Oh. It also needs to taste really, really good so you don’t get bored with it.
You can see a lot of my previous lunch salad attempts in the Macheesmo salads category. I try a bunch out that I don’t always post as well. I try to only post the really outstanding ones.
Which would easily include this one.
In fact, this one might have been my favorite to-date. The funny part is that it was inspired largely on a pre-made salad that Betsy grabbed at a local grocery store one day when I completely failed at making a lunch salad. It was so good that she asked me to try to re-do it. I added a bunch more veggies and stuff to it, but the idea is basically the same.
1) Cook quinoa according to package.
2) Chop veggies finely and stir in with cooked quinoa.
3) Drizzle in dressing a bit at a time. Taste and adjust with more dressing if necessary. You might not need all of it.
4) Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes on medium heat until the seeds are lightly browned and fragrant.
5) Stir in peanuts, seeds, and basil.
Making the Quinoa
Quinoa sounds all fancy (and can sometimes come with a fancy price tag), but it’s surprisingly easy to make. You should read the instructions on the package since there are a few different varieties of quinoa. In general though, rinse the quinoa with cold water and then get some water simmering in a large pot. Usually you want a 2-to-1 ratio, water-to-quinoa.
Once the water is simmering pour in the rinsed quinoa, cover it, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then kill the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then lightly fluff it up and you’ll have a really delicious quinoa!
Prepping Other Ingredients
The list of veggies you could toss in this salad is pretty endless. I’d recommending using whatever you have in your fridge that might go well in it. For me this included some cucumber, red pepper, onions, and shredded carrots. I also picked up some really beautiful radishes at the market on this given week and I figured they would give the salad a nice crunch also.
One thing I wouldn’t add to this salad is any kind of cheese like feta. Sometimes I like adding cheeses to salads like this, but in this case I think it would be too much.
As far as prepping the veggies go, just try to get them sliced up pretty finely. You don’t want any huge chunks of any one thing. For the cucumber, I would remove the seeds, but you can leave on the skin if you want.
These were my radishes after a quick dice.
Once everything is in the bowl with the quinoa it’s a really pretty mix.
I kept the dressing pretty simple for this salad. You could fancy it up a bit with some fresh ginger and/or garlic, but I this was a quick and easy dressing that definitely go the job done.
You can definitely leave out the sesame chili oil or sub it with normal sesame oil, but I do think it’s a really nice touch.
Just mix up the soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil and drizzle it over the salad. Depending on your tastes you might not need all the dressing so I would add about half of it and then adjust the flavor.
It’s pretty hard to remove soy sauce from a salad like this so start slow.
Once you add some dressing, stir it all together and then taste it. Just adjust it to your tastes at that point!
The Bonus Items
There’s a few bonus items that I think kick this salad up a notch. I added a few handfuls of chopped peanuts, a big handful of fresh basil which I just diced up and a few Tablespoons of sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds can be a tiny bit bland straight out of the box, but if you toast them for a few minutes in a dry pan, they become lightly browned and really fragrant.
So I recommend toasting them.
You could add the garnishes to the top if you want, but I just stirred everything together.
This is supposed to be a low maintenance dish after all.
Honestly, this is about as healthy as a salad can get in my opinion. It’s got tons of veggies and flavor to get you going. If you wanted to add even more protein to it you could add some chicken or tofu, but I didn’t even think it needed it.
It’s a great change from the standard deli bar salad or whatever.