Posted by: njbrown | July 9, 2011

Red Quinoa Salad with Apple, Cranberry, Orange, Pecan and Fennel

Red Quinoa Salad with Apple, Cranberry, Orange, Pecan and Fennel

Yesterday, my daughter and I traveled about an hour to have lunch at Langdon Hall, a beautiful historic mansion that is one of the Relais & Chateaux group of stellar restaurants and hotels.  Because my daughter is now gluten intolerant as well as vegan, I called ahead to see if they would be able to accommodate her dietary restrictions.  I was assured there would be no problem.  Once there, however, things began to go downhill.  A very limited number of possible dishes were offered, and were higher in price than the already high-priced regular dishes.  My daughter’s “vegetable ragout” was essentially a salad – a very small salad – with a few nasturtium petals sprinkled over the top.  My “cassoulet” was also essentially a salad served over a very, very small amount of lentils.  When it came to dessert, we were told the only thing they could offer  within our parameters was sorbet.  All in all, it was a disappointing lunch in a beautiful setting.

My advice to chefs – none of whom read this blog, I’m sure – is to have something nice available for people with food limitations.  Our server said each day people come to the hotel with special dietary needs.  Salads – no matter what you call them – are not sufficient.  Sorbet is not an exciting dessert.  With ingredients on hand like Portobello mushrooms, avocados, nuts, dried or fresh fruit, wild rice, and grains like quinoa or Israeli couscous in addition to seasonal vegetables, you can offer a variety of filling and really flavorful mains. (At Roycroft Inn in upper N. Y. State, my daughter had a beautiful array of grilled vegetables on top of Israeli couscous with truffle oil that was truly wonderful.)  Wine-poached pears and/or peaches can be made for anyone (a la my experience many years ago at the Tour d’Argent in Paris), and served with a chocolate or fruit sauce for something decadent.  Even strawberries with balsamic vinegar has more pizzazz than sorbet.  (Don’t get me wrong – sorbet is sometimes very enjoyable – I just don’t find it exciting.)  The quinoa salad below would have made an unusual, refreshing, but substantial lunch for us.  It would have combined well with the unusually good vegan corn bread that my daughter was given.

In a recent Top Chef Masters competition, the chefs had to make a lunch for a vegan Hollywood star and her friends.  Most of them came up with really lacklustre dishes, but one used quinoa.  I don’t know if this was the first time I’d heard of quinoa, but in the months since, it is gaining attention.  It was only a few weeks ago that I found there is red quinoa.  I went to trusty Wikipedia to learn more about quinoa:

Derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name kinwa or occasionally “Qin-wah”, Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America, where it was successfully domesticated 3000 to 4000 years ago for human consumption, though archeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5200 to 7000 years ago.

Similar Chenopodium species, such as pitseed goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri) and fat hen (Chenopodium album), were grown and domesticated in North America as part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex before maize agriculture became popular.Fat hen, which has a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, produces edible seeds and greens much like quinoa, but in lower quantities.

The nutrient composition is very favourably compared with common cereals. Quinoa grains contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.

After harvest, the grains need to be processed, in order to remove the coating containing bitter-tasting saponins. Quinoa grains are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Quinoa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.


The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using ‘golden implements’. During the European conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians’, and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadores forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.

I really encourage you to try quinoa. Bon appétit!

(Serves 4+)


  • 1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa,  preferably red
  • 1 large, crisp apple, such as Crispin
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced fennel
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbs. grated orange  zest
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO); more as needed
  • Freshly ground  black pepper
  • Salt


  1. In a bowl, rinse the quinoa with water twice, rubbing it between your fingers for about 10  seconds each time.
    Cook according to directions on box.
  2. Drain the quinoa and return it to the pot.
  3. Cover and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes; then fluff it with a fork.
  4. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Toss diced apple with lemon juice to prevent darkening
  6. In a large bowl, mix the quinoa, apple, walnuts, fennel, and cranberries and orange zest.
  7. Mix EVOO and red wine vinegar, pour over salad and toss lightly.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste..


  1. I am going to try it!!!! as I know the red variation of quinoa is kiwicha (keeweecha)

    • I hope you enjoy it!


  2. Good for you. This looks lovely. I think you should send it to Langdon Hall as a suggestion!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: