The success of this marriage is dependent on the roasting. I’ve added raw carrots to quinoa salads. And subsequently thrown out raw carrot and quinoa salads following days guilting myself into eating the leftovers. It’s a mathematical truth: mild & earthy + mild & earthy = zzzzz.
A blast of scorching heat changes everything. Even the most milk-toast carrots are transformed into tender, caramel-y, candy-like nuggets of golden goodness with almost no effort. Together with quinoa, it’s staggeringly delicious in its simplicity.
I started with a 1 pound bag of baby carrots; if you wish to peel and cut regular carrots, go right ahead. Baby carrots are what was on hand and I was happy to schlep them into the oven with no prep besides a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a brief toss.
Roast the heck out of the carrots. It won’t take long at high heat and you can make the quinoa as they roast. It’s fine–and good–if the carrots look somewhat blistered when they emerge from the oven; they will calm down into sweet tenderness as the cool. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl to cool (or spread it out on a large cookie sheet to cool even faster). Once the carrots have cooled, give them a rough or refined chop; let your mood determine which.
Beyond the blasting, only a few adornments are needed to pull the salad together: some chopped roasted almonds, a lemon dressing, and fresh cilantro. I added some ground coriander (cilantro seeds); it’s a faintly citrus-y spice, much like cilantro, but with warm bass notes. It is harmonious with cooked and raw carrots prepared any and every which way, and makes assemblage of otherwise ordinary ingredients that much more special. If you don’t have it, don’t worry; try an equal amount of ground cumin in its place, or omit it altogether. Finally, if you are a member of the rogue band of cilantro haters who roam this earth…well, I suppose we can still be friends…and you can substitute an equal amount of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley in it’s place.
The beautiful bowl in this photo was made (turned) by my multi-talented and (sometimes annoyingly) humble husband.
In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 11-12 minutes until most, but not all, of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) for 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and cool.
Chop the cooled carrots and add to the quinoa. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, and coriander, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the dressing, cilantro and almonds to quinoa mixture, tossing to coat. Adjust seasonings to taste. Best served at room temperature.