Brown bag lunch: quinoa salad with tasso & citrus vinaigrette


I’m not a huge fan of the sandwich. I used to be a fan, eating them almost daily at lunch for decades — but it was during one of my pregnancies that I must have crossed a line of sandwich-eating, consuming one too many, saturating my tolerance for the American lunch favorite named for an Earl.

What I am a fan of for lunch is the grain salad. Granted, I’m not personally eating them right now for obvious reasons — but plan to someday reintroduce them to my midday repertoire. They are convenient — you can make a big bowl and eat from it for days, serving it hot or cold. They are inexpensive — grains, even organic ones, are a lot of bang for your buck. And they are infinitely variable, using up leftover bits and pieces of things in your refrigerator that might otherwise go bad. What’s not to love about the grain salad?

So when the folks at the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market asked me to come up with some under-$5 lunch ideas using market-sourced ingredients, this was the first thing that came to mind.

I love quinoa — a seed-grain that contains not only lots of protein, but all of the amino acids, and is lower-carb than most other grains. It has a stronger flavor than rice, which for some takes a while to get used to — and while I’m not a fan of eating it plain, I do love using it in salads.

Today’s recipe is Cajun-inspired, with its star ingredient being Smoking Goose’s spicy, smoky cured pork tasso. The strong, salty flavor of the pork is tempered by roasted bell peppers, celery, and the subtle sweetness of an orange vinaigrette. The perfect salad to carry to lunch, as it does well at room-temperature — and it comes in at about $2.50 for a lunch serving. Mission accomplished.


If you’re interested, I’ll be showcasing this and a couple other lunches (with at least one sandwich) at tomorrow’s market. Sonja of A Couple Cooks will be there with her vegetarian lunches, and a raw food chef will showcase options as well. I think the party starts at 10 am — so if you’ve not made it to the market, come tomorrow and say hello! I’ll be the one with the southern drawl, breaking out into hives if I have to speak publicly.

Thanks to the IWFM for supplying ingredients for this and the other lunches on display tomorrow. You can find the tasso, quinoa, honey, olive oil, and perhaps the parsley & scallions at tomorrow’s market, all from local vendors.


Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Tasso and Citrus Vinaigrette

: Feel free to substitute leftover cooked quinoa (use about 4 cups cooked instead of 1 cup dry) or another grain such as cooked rice, barley, etc. You can use any smoked ham or other cured meat instead of tasso.


  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water or stock
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 pound tasso (or other smoked meat), cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced (most of a 7-oz jar)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey


  1. In a fine-meshed colander, rinse the quinoa well, and drain thoroughly.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil or butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and stir to coat with oil and separate grains.
  3. Add the water and 1/2 tsp salt, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and let cool to room temperature.
  5. In a small bowl or jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, honey, and olive oil. Whisk or shake well to combine.
  6. Once quinoa is just barely warm, combine with the tasso, peppers, scallions, celery, and parsley. Pour vinaigrette over the top, and toss to combine.
  7. Taste for seasoning, adding additional splash of vinegar or salt if necessary.
  8. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in a refrigerated airtight container for up to 5 days.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.


6 thoughts on “Brown bag lunch: quinoa salad with tasso & citrus vinaigrette

  1. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be going down to the market, but this makes me want to. And I didn’t know you could get quinoa there! I’ve been using my market-bought lard to fry my eggs this past week – not much, probably even less than a tablespoon for two eggs – and I can tell a difference. It lends a bit of a bacon-y flavor to my breakfast without all of the splashing grease and burns on my arms. I love it!

    1. Yay for lard! I use it for my eggs too and love it. The quinoa guy is usually right in front of the window, to the east of the front door.

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