Winter Quinoa Salad with Mixed Beans and Tahini-Chili Dressing

by formerchef on January 12, 2011

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Last year I did a 21 day cleanse diet which I detailed here on the blog. During that time I adhered to a very simple, yet strict, set of rules; no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, no wheat gluten and no animal products (totally vegan) for the entire three weeks. I was very proud to be able to say I completed my goals with no cheating. It was an eye-opening experience and taught me three big things; I have the will power to say no to donuts (and everything else for 3 weeks), that pork really isn’t a food group (I didn’t need to eat meat protein at every meal), and that I have the skills to eat well even with limitations. That said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to return to how I normally eat when it was over.

Even though my typical diet is fairly healthy, it’s very easy to get off track, especially during the holidays. So about mid-way through December I decided it was time for me to do another cleanse diet once the holidays were over. This time I’m doing pretty much the same but allowing myself my morning cup of coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar (albeit with soy creamer rather than half and half).

I’m about a week and a half into it now and in many ways it’s much easier than last time because I know what to expect, what works and what doesn’t (sugar free, gluten free, vegan cheesecake is a mistake any way you look at it) and what kinds of food to make so I don’t feel too deprived. I started the week making some of my favorite things from last time; Morrocan Garbanzo Bean Stew, Tofu Tacos, and gluten free pasta baked with home made marinara, vegetables, and vegan cheese (honestly good, even my husband liked it).

This quinoa salad was born out of the desire to make something new, and something portable for lunch. Since I work in restaurants, I usually eat there (whatever the crew are eating or something from the menu) but finding something vegan and gluten free is a huge challenge if not downright impossible.  But bringing food to a restaurant is like bringing coal to Newcastle as they say, and I can’t really ask the cooks to reheat my leftovers during the lunch rush. So, if I’m going to bring it with me, it better be good even when cold. Eating cold salads isn’t usually the first thing one thinks of in winter, but this one is hearty and filling and because of the quinoa and beans, packed with protein. The dressing is creamy thanks to the tahini (a sesame paste often used in hummus), and a little piquant from the lemon juice and chili spice.

Quinoa Salad Recipe
2 cups red quinoa
4 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked mixed beans*
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sliced green onion (about 3)
2 stalks celery diced (3/4 cup)
1 cup sliced snow peas
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced (1/2 cup)

*mixed beans; I used a 20 oz can of “6 Bean Mix” by Mid-East brand. It includes garbanzos, kidney beans, black eyed peas, white kidney beans, and romano beans) but you can use which ever kind you prefer.

Rinse the quinoa. In a two quart pot, bring 4 cups of water or vegetable stock to a simmer. Stir in the quinoa, reduce the heat to low and cook the quinoa for approximately 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. For more on cooking quinoa see the instructions in my recipe for quinoa salad with shrimp and lime vinaigrette. When the quinoa has finished cooking, spread it out on a pan to cool.

Slice the mushrooms. Heat a large saute pan and add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until brown, soft, and all the moisture has evaporated. Allow to cool.

If using canned beans, drain and rinse them well. Slice the green onion, and dice the celery and bell peppers.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa with the beans, mushrooms, green onion, celery and red and yellow bell pepper. Add dressing (recipe below) to taste.

Note; if you are not going to serve all this salad at once (it makes a large amount, about 10 cups) then you might not want to dress it all at once. Add the dressing to only as much as you want to serve. It will stay fresher this way and not get soggy with the dressing on it.

Tahini Chili Dressing Recipe

1/4 cup tahini paste
4 oz olive oil
2 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (add more if you want it spicy)
salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

1 Cassie, January 12, 2011 at 7:59 am

Thanks for this recipe and for mentioning the cleanse. I was wavering back and forth about whether I should do a cleanse (one mentioned in GOOP) but I was incredibly intimidated by the limitations and all the new ingredients I would have to buy. I know, I know, the point is to stop eating the bad stuff that’s currently in my pantry. I am just unsure I would know how to cook with all these new things. I’m going to take a look on your past cleanse recipes and experience and see if it gives me the nudge I need. Thanks again!

2 formerchef January 12, 2011 at 8:08 am

Yes, it can be intimidating. In the end, I don’t think you have to buy a lot of “special” stuff, just eat whole (meaning unprocessed) foods. The first time I did it I bought a lot of “vegan” products, but ultimately I found them to be as processed as other processed packaged foods. It’s tough, and I admit I’m still struggling, especially with trying to get enough protein, but it’s a learning experience (for me). Plus, I have a freezer full of pasture raised pork, so I know I’m not going to do this forever, just long enough to “reset” my system. 🙂

3 Jenn @LeftoverQueen January 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

This quinoa salad looks great! I am always looking for good gf foods! I might suggest coconut milk instead of soy creamer though…or even better, raw milk if you can find it. There are many people who do raw milk cleanses…so it is definitely good for you during this time!

4 formerchef January 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Thanks, I’ll look into Coconut Milk. Not so sure about the raw milk though…I think I’d want to know the farmer first. 😉

5 Melanie January 17, 2011 at 9:01 am

Recipe sounds great and I want to try it today.

I’m a bit confused tho b/c in the picture it looks like there are also snow peas but it’s not mentioned in the recipe…what is in the bowl to the right of the mushrooms? It also looks like it’s used in the final pic…?


6 formerchef January 17, 2011 at 9:06 am

Melanie- You’re right! I forgot the snowpeas in the recipe. I’ve just added them in. Thanks for letting me know.

7 Melanie January 17, 2011 at 9:58 am

Great, thanks for that. I’m just about to head to the grocery store and wanted to make sure I get everything I need. 🙂

8 dave January 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm

This salad is delicious!

9 Cucee Sprouts January 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I make a really similar recipe and LOVE IT. It is on my blog However, I do want to tell you about my most recent creation – Quinoa Mac and Cheese with Spinach. It is divine and is totally up your alley!!!

10 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen January 21, 2011 at 12:54 am

Wow, I’m impressed by your willpower! The closest thing I’ve ever done to a cleanse was give up sugar for two months and that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. There are just some things that need sugar! 😀 I love quinoa by the way, it’s my newest obsession, I eat it hot cold even for breakfast.

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