This Quinoa Salad Is My Holy Grail Potluck Dish

updated Oct 13, 2020
Kitchn Love Letters
Potluck Quinoa
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Credit: Lauren Kodiak

If a potluck invite brings you a certain level of anxiety, you’re not alone. I used to agonize over what to bring: Will it fit with the rest of the dishes? Will it need to be heated? Will there even be an oven? And, most importantly: Will anyone actually like it? But now I worry less. That’s because I have a go-to, no-heat, crowd-pleasing recipe I count on.

What is this magical dish? It’s Julia Turshen’s aptly named Potluck Quinoa from her 2016 debut cookbook Small Victories. With quinoa, hazelnuts, arugula, lemon juice, and goat cheese, it’s one of those unassuming dishes that somehow tastes greater than the sum of its parts, and it never fails to please.

What Makes This Recipe Potluck-Perfect

For starters, this salad is easy to transport and tastes great served at room temperature. You can toss it all together in a large serving bowl and bring it right to the potluck table in that very same vessel.

It’s also well-suited and adaptable to a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. The base of the salad is quinoa, which is naturally gluten-free and a complete source of vegetarian protein for those abstaining from meat. I’ve brought this salad to a few potlucks where I knew there was someone who was vegan or avoiding dairy, and I just left the goat cheese on the side for people to add as they liked. The only limitation here is that this is not a friendly dish for anyone with a nut allergy. The recipe calls for you to toast your hazelnuts in olive oil, and then to use that infused olive oil in the salad (which I think is essential to the flavor of the dish).

Another reason I love this dish: You can easily make it ahead of time. In fact, a key step in the process is to transfer your quinoa to a baking sheet once it’s cooked, and spread it out. This way, the quinoa cools down quickly and all the steam evaporates, so you have distinct, fluffy grains. You can do this step ahead and then just quickly assemble the remaining ingredients just before you head out to the potluck.

One note: The recipe states that it serves four, but I find that, as written, it can serve way more than four people, especially at a potluck, where people are taking smaller portions. But if you’re bringing it to an especially large gathering, you can double the recipe for sure.

Potluck Quinoa

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    quinoa (180g)

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (60ml)

  • 1/2 cup

    whole raw hazelnuts, crushed (a rolling pin makes quick work of this) (70g)

  • 2 tablespoons

    fresh lemon juice

  • 2

    large handfuls baby arugula and/or soft, leafy herbs (parsley, dill, chives, etc.), roughly chopped

  • 4 ounces

    fresh goat cheese, crumbled (115g)

Instructions

  1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer (this may sound like an annoying step, but don’t skip it since quinoa’s natural coating tastes soapy). Put the rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 cups [420 ml] water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, softened, and each grain has “spiraled,” about 12 minutes.

  2. Transfer the quinoa to a baking sheet and use a spoon to spread it out. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the hazelnuts, sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are dark brown, about 5 minutes.

  4. Transfer the hazelnuts and all of their fragrant oil to the bowl with the quinoa, along with the lemon juice and arugula. Stir everything together and season to taste with salt. Scatter the goat cheese on top of the quinoa and drizzle the whole thing evenly with a good glug of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted from Small Victories by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2016.

Variations:

Mix cooked quinoa with chopped and roasted zucchini and black sesame seeds and dress with a mixture of equal parts extra- virgin olive oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

For a super-retro combination, combine cooked quinoa with perfectly diced carrots and frozen peas that you’ve cooked in salted water. Stir everything together with plenty of butter and serve warm.

For a really satisfying side dish, mix cooked quinoa with roasted mushrooms and top with a few pickled red onions. For a main course, top each serving with a fried or poached egg.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.