When I first ate quinoa, my gratitude propelled my love for it more than its flavor. I was desperate for another gluten-free option to replace rice, and I was also on a low-glycemic diet. I can eat wheat and other gluten-protein grains, but several of my friends can’t. So, serving food that everyone can eat, not feel different or left out is my entertaining and personal philosophy. Quinoa is a perfect grain (seed), to eat and a great source of protein for plant-based diets. Ever since my discovery of this recipe, quinoa salad with avocado and dried fruit makes a regular appearance on my dinning table, especially for entertaining.
I discovered this salad recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine 2009, in an article featuring avocado recipes. Next to dark chocolate, avocados are one of my favorite foods. Naturally, the recipe grabbed my attention. During the time, I needed vegan and gluten-free recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. The quinoa salad with avocado turned out to be the perfect option, a two for one deal. Additionally, this quinoa salad turned my attitude around from not just being grateful, but liking quinoa as well. This salad appeals to everyone, not just people who are vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet.
There are many reasons why I love this salad and the taste is just one of them. This quinoa salad is just as much about avocados as it is quinoa. With a ratio of about 2 cups of cooked quinoa to 2 whole avocados, you get a creamy avocado morsel in every bite. Being a major avocado fan, I find this significant amount of avocados wonderful. What’s not to love about an avocado in every bite? There is never such a thing as too much avocado.
The dried apricots and raisins adds punch and concentrated flavor. The nuttiness of the quinoa and creaminess of the avocado provide a foundation for the dried fruit to pop. You do not need a lot of dried fruit, a little goes a long way. The deep orange color of the apricots adds a nice attractive element to the salad as well. If you live in an area where apricots are grown, try substituting fresh ones for the dried apricots. The only consideration is, once sliced, apricots get mushy and aged looking after they linger. However, adding a fresh ripe apricot might be worth a try.
The lemon cumin vinaigrette is much brighter than it sounds. Thanks to the absorbing power of the quinoa, the cumin flavor is in the background and does not overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. The cumin adds a bit of earthiness against the airy and lemony sunshine. The taste of the flavors are unexpected, yet truly complimentary. I love it. The blend of the quinoa, avocado and dried fruits with the dressing is a nice balance of sweet, acid, nuts and earthy flavors. It is not a heavy dressing, just enough to season the ingredients. Therefore, the quinoa salad does not taste or look oily.
More Gluten-free recipes:
The only thing I change is, I like to add fresh herbs when they are available. Basil adds a nice bit of fresh green sweetness, and even parsley or mint works. If you want to add cilantro, substitute the lemon zest and juice with lime and see how you like it. Quinoa and avocados pair well with a variety of herbs and spices, just be careful not to overpower the salad with too much of anything. If you need a more substantial meal or substitute for almonds, chickpeas are also delicious in this salad.
Making this salad reminds me of my hometown in California. I can picture so many parts of my childhood with each ingredient. Eating avocado sandwiches with my friends at a restaurant in Strawberry. Climbing our apricot tree and picking them before the birds got them. But, what really touches my heart is when I rinse the quinoa. Running my hands through the cold, wet and gritty quinoa seeds, reminds me of making sand castles and building forts at Cronkite Beach. It’s usually cold, foggy and the sand is rough. Despite the cold, I love the Marin Coastline and will forever hold it dear in my heart.
Food has a way about savoring old memories and making new ones. Deborah Madison created this recipe, but after making it for so long and cherishing new and old memories, it feels like my own.
Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit
- 3 TB raisins dark, golden or a mix of raisins
- 2 TB dried apricots thinly sliced
- 1 cup red or white quinoa or a mix
- Kosher salt
- Zest from one lemon
- 1 TB fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
- 2 ripe avocados pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 scallions white and light green parts thinly sliced
- 2-3 TB coarsely almonds
Add the raisins and apricots to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the dried fruit for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water passing through the strainer runs clear, not chalky. Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the water is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. You will see the germ ring that will look like a white curlicue around each seed.
When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature.
While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet on the stove at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the almonds and stir, shake or flip the almonds in the pan and toast the almonds until they get slightly darker and release their oil. About 1 minute depending on how hot your skillet is. You will start to smell the almonds as they toast. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn. Immediately remove the almonds from the skillet and cool. Once cooled, rough chop the almonds and set aside.
Make the salad dressing. Finely grate the lemon zest into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and whisk until well combined.
In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, apricots, raisins, avocados, scallions and chopped almonds. Carefully mix the ingredients together. Try mixing them with a fork so you do not squish the ingredients together. Then add the salad dressing. Mix until combined. Spoon into a severing bowl, garnish with chopped almonds, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
While in my mid 20’s I commuted into Manhattan by train from Bedford Hills NY. As commutes go my morning routine was generally relaxed. Joe would drive me to the train station in Bedford Hills, and we would get breakfast at a place called Leslie’s Kitchen. They served the best apple muffins and every morning I asked for one. Joe and I would eat our muffins and talk before my train arrived. Not a bad way to start one’s commute.
Unfortunately Leslie’s Kitchen does not exist anymore, but I still think of those apple muffins. What I liked about them was, they had chunks of apples in the muffin and sprinkled with cinnamon. They were also extremely moist and light. Leslie’s apple muffins were delicate muffins that did not weigh me down like some muffins will. It might not have been a hearty breakfast, but to this day I have not seen or tasted apple muffins like the one’s I had from Leslie’s Kitchen.
I was thinking about recipes that would be great to serve for breakfast on Christmas morning. I wanted to share a recipe that was easy to make, something that could be made ahead, and had a touch of festive cheer. My pondering concluded with an inspiration to recreate the apple muffins I longed for from Leslie’s Kitchen. As a result of my recipe testing, combining, swapping, and improvising, I came up with a recipe that is similar to what I remember of Leslie’s Kitchen apple muffins but are all dressed up for the season. Since it is December and overflowing with holiday spirit and celebrating, I included a glaze to add some sparkle and pizzaz to my apple muffins.
My recipe is adapted from three recipes. Two are from Joy of Cooking and one idea from Baking Illustrated Cookbook. First, I combined and adapted Joy of Cooking standard muffin and their apple and walnut muffin recipes. I added dried apricots and yogurt and omitted the cinnamon. The yogurt addition in my recipe created the moistness and lightness similar to the apple muffins I was recreating.
Then I decided to add sparkle and shine, so I dressed up these delicacies with an idea from Baking Illustrated, and brushed a lemon glaze over the muffin tops then dipped them in lemon sugar. This one small step converted good muffins into fabulous party worthy muffins with lemony crystal sweetness and sparkle.
My recipe for apple muffins is not exactly the same as Leslie’s, but they do remind me of them and satisfy my apple muffin cravings. Apple muffins with lemon glaze are festive breakfast muffins that shine with lemon sugar crystal twinkles and the warmth of apples. They are a delightful way to start your day and will satisfy peppy early risers and grouchy morning people alike. Enjoy!
Make ahead tip for Apple Muffins:
Joy of Cooking says you can freeze muffin batter. Spoon the muffin batter into muffin liners and freeze. First freeze the batter in the muffin liners while still in the muffin tin. Then, take the frozen muffins out of the tin and place in a freezer bag. Keep in the freezer until ready to bake. When baking day arrives, place the frozen muffins into the muffin tin then bake. The baking time could take longer, so watch carefully.
If freezing is not your thing, mix the dry ingredients together the night before. Then finish mixing the recipe the next morning. I would not recommend making the muffin batter the night before you want to bake them, because the leavening could weaken overnight.
Apple Muffins with Lemon Glaze
- 2 medium sized apples (see note)
- 2/3 cup/158g granulated sugar
- Rounded 1/3 cup/ 63 g chopped dried apricots about 1/4" in size
- 4 Tb/2 oz/56 g sweet butter
- 2 cups/280 g all-purpose flour
- 1 Tb/13g baking powder
- 1/2 tea baking soda use only if you add yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream
- 1/2 tea Kosher salt
- 1/2 tea freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tea if used ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup/ 237 ml yogurt or buttermilk you can substitute with whole milk or cream- but omit the 1/2 tea baking soda
- 1 tea/5ml vanilla
Lemon Sugar Glaze for muffin topping
- zest from one small lemon
- 1/2 cup/100g Turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup/60ml fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup/54g granulated sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a regular size muffin tin with cooking spray.
Peel and core the apples. Grate one of the apples on the coarse side of a box grater and put into a medium size bowl. Chop the remaining apple into pieces no bigger than 3/8" /1 cm. Add to the bowl with the grated apples. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples and stir until combined. Add the granulated sugar and chopped dried apricots. Stir then cover with plastic wrap directly on top of the apples to prevent browning, and let the apple sugar mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a microwave or saucepan. Set aside to slightly cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, (only if using yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream), Kosher salt, and nutmeg, and whisk until just combined.
In another large bowl whisk together the yogurt (or substitute), eggs, melted butter, and vanilla until just combined. Add the apple mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir until just mixed in.
Add the yogurt/apple mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Be careful not to over mix the muffin batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and fill each cup slightly shy of the top of the tin.
Bake the muffins in the oven for 14- 17 minutes, turning from front to back halfway through the baking time. A toothpick inserted in the middle of a couple of muffins should come out clean.
Cool the muffins for a couple of minutes in the muffin tin. Remove the muffins from the tin and place the muffins on the cooling rack. Serve or add the Lemon glaze to the muffins.
While the muffins are cooking prepare the lemon sugar and lemon glaze. Mix the grated lemon zest with 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
In small sauce pan add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture becomes syrupy and reduced to about 4 tablespoons.
I recommend to place the cooling rack with the muffins over a piece of parchment paper, newspaper, or baking sheet to protect your counter from the dripping glaze.
Once the muffins have cooled for 5 minutes, brush the warm lemon glaze over the muffin tops with a pastry brush. When all the muffins are glazed, dip one muffin at a time, and top side down, into the lemon sugar. Turn muffins right side up and place on the cooling rack.
Best enjoyed on the same day they are made. These muffins do not have to be completely cooled before serving. Can be served after they have been cooled and glazed.
There are some great types of apples to use in baking. I used Lady Dragon and Granny Smith Apples in my recipe testing. You want to use a firm apple that will stand up to the high temperature of baking.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.