Scarlet Quinoa

There’s a place I really like here in L.A called M Cafe. It focuses on super tasty macrobiotic meals. It might be easy to write off macrobiotics as a cult or faddish lifestyle given the range of claims made on its ability to cure certain diseases. Many of these theses are widely rejected but I’d rather not get into all of that. What I can reap and appreciate from the macrobiotic diet is a focus on grain and plant-based nutrition. Eating local and seasonal foods is also a mainstay of the macrobiotic ideologue, and is a practice I value.

The first time I had lunch at M Cafe, I saw a package of vibrant red quinoa. The friend I was with was quick to point out that the restaurant is well known for this particular dish which they call “scarlet quinoa.”

This salad is the perfect balance of sweet & salty and chewy & crunchy. My quinoa doesn’t look as vibrant as M Cafe’s for a couple of reasons. Number one, I used store-bought steamed beets which contained a pretty minimal amount of juice. I made this salad a couple of times before with beets that I cooked at home with the quinoa which produced a much more vibrant red hue. The second reason for the lack of scarlet in the salad is that I used red quinoa, rather than the regular variety, which doesn’t absorb the color of beet juice as readily. Regardless, the salad remains one of my favorites.

Aside from beets, my salad contains radish, cucumbers, chives, and pickles. (M cafe’s salad also has dill but omits the radish.) The pickles are an unexpected but intensely satisfying component here. I had a jar of spicy ginger pickles that I made a couple of weeks ago and added them to the salad. Heaven!

Scarlet Quinoa

Adapted from LA Times Recipe: M Café’s Scarlet Quinoa Salad


1 C Quinoa

2 C Water

1 tsp Olive Oil

1 Persian Cucumber, diced

¼ C Chopped Dill Pickles

3 Radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 C Sliced Steamed Beets (I used 5 small beets)

¼ C Chopped Chives

2 tsp Ume (plum) Vinegar

1 tsp Lemon Juice

2 T Dill Pickle Juice

1 T Olive Oil

½ tsp Mirin

Directions:  Wash quinoa under cold running water in a fine strainer. Drain well. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook, covered until water is absorbed and quinoa has sprouted, approx 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain liquid, and set quinoa aside.

In a large salad bowl, combine the cucumber, pickles, radish, beets, and chives. Once quinoa has cooled, fluff with fork and add to salad bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ume vinegar, lemon juice, pickle brine, olive oil and mirin. Drizzle over salad and stir well until salad is coated in dressing. Serve in small bowls. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “Scarlet Quinoa

  1. Pingback: Fresh Cucumber » Scarlet Quinoa | The Incuisition

  2. LOVE! The ume and the pickles sound so interesting. What a great mix of flavors. And quinoa is one of my favorite sources of protien. Your photos are gorgeous!

  3. i also think it’s nice because it sounds like a scandalous heiress from portugal…Scarlet Quinoa was seen downtown in the wee hours canoodling with the whisper thin starlet Blanca Endive.

  4. Pingback: Pickled Beets « Spoon Feast

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