East Meets West: Fiesta Quinoa Pilaf and Seaweed Salad


It is the time of year when peppers and fresh herbs are growing wildly in gardens. It is also the season when our family particularly enjoys fresh, Tex-Mex dishes. This pilaf is delicious with seared, wild salmon or fish (topped with dollops of homemade, creamy guacamole!). The pilaf is beyond tasty wrapped in corn or whole-grain tortilla and served with the standard taco fixins’. The dish is a nice change of pace from the standard Mexican-inspired meal and makes room for a bounty of nutrient-rich vegetables and greens.

I prefer to eat this with a fork, but my kids beg to differ. We are working on good table manners yet have quite a way to go! Hands out of the food, you two!


No wonder they can’t resist; it’s such a healthful dish! Fresh herbs and greens often pack more vitamins than other vegetables; this recipe uses a full two-cups. They are a wonderful way to add flavor to dishes without obscene amounts of fat and sodium.


Citrus is an additional salubrious way to amp up the volume taste-wise! It’s an excellent source of vitamin c, which aids in the absorption of non-heme iron, found in beans, legumes and other vegetarian iron sources. This pilaf sports citrus, greens and legumes, along with quinoa, a complete protein.


Both of my kids love this dish and were all over this photo shoot. “More quinoa, please!” and “Chocolate! Cheese!” (read: take my photo, please) were the cries of the hour.

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The beauty of this recipe is that it makes great leftovers. Toss it with greens and your favorite vinaigrette, then sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese for a light lunch. Alternatively, bake or pan-fry quinoa fritters burgers by adding egg and oat flour or bread crumbs to the pilaf and forming patties. Snu Magoo and Littlest Guy never say no to any food in the shape of a hamburger, especially a meaty-tasting, vegetarian version.



You can stuff the pilaf into roasted baby winter squash, top with goat gouda cheese and bake, hearty and comforting for a delicious vegetarian meal. Or, add the pilaf to chicken stock, simmer with shredded chicken and top with your favorite “chicken taco soup” garnishes, such as crunchy baked chips, manchego cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt. Of course, versatile quinoa gratin is a fantastic way to use the leftovers (if any remain!).

If all else fails, double the recipe and freeze the pilaf in small batches for a quick, balanced dinner anytime. You’ve got a balanced amount of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein in one scrumptious dish. Warm, sprinkle with chevré and you’re in heaven!


Another amazing, super-food delight we have enjoyed recently is a vibrant seaweed salad with a julienne of tart, crisp, slightly honeyed Fuji apple; refreshing cucumber; earthy, nutty sesame seeds; spicy ginger, zesty vinegar, bright cilantro and soft stands of umami wakame. We couldn’t resist the urge to add a splash of crunchy, bright orange carrot.

The savory-sweet recipe comes from a 2002 edition of Gourmet magazine and is now a family summer favorite. It shines when paired grilled fish, marinated in a spicy, jalapeño-laced  soy-ginger vinaigrette, or as a starter before simply-executed, hand-rolled sushi roll. My little girl enjoys it best, mid-afternoon, as a light snack before dinner.

What are you cooking up this summer? Does your family have any favorite, garden-inspired recipes in your rotation? Feel free to share in the comments section, below!

Eat well – and eat up!




Fiesta Quinoa Pilaf


1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 each: large red, yellow and green pepper, halved and sliced into thin strips

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced into thin strips

4 large garlic cloves, minced

the juice and zest of one large lemon or two small limes

2/3 cup dried red quinoa, cooked/prepared according to package directions

6 scallions, green parts, only, thinly sliced

1 /2 cup each: leaves of parsley, spinach, cilantro and basil, chopped

1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked

1 cup black beans, cooked

1 cup corn, roasted or steamed

salt and pepper, to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Sautée the onions, peppers and mushrooms until soft and slightly golden, about ten minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and lemon or lime zest and juice.
  • Sautée for a minute more, just until the garlic is soft and the juice has partly evaporated.
  • Use a rubber spatula to scrape all of the vegetables and juice into a large bowl.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients, though the salt and pepper, and mix well.
  • Taste and add more citrus, if desired.
  • Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so flavors can meld.

©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.


48 thoughts on “East Meets West: Fiesta Quinoa Pilaf and Seaweed Salad

  1. This sure is a very healthy complete food. You have explained the nutritional facts in the dish so well. That must be very delicious too.
    Btw you have got very beautiful kids. ❤

    1. Thank you, Ju-won! I love seaweed soup with miso! MMM. In our household, it is customary for my hubby to bring me seaweed salad with sesame seeds and sushi rolls to the hospital after a kiddo is born… so we aren’t too far off! 🙂

  2. I am enjoying YOUR garden delight recipes 🙂 Fantastic, all. Would order a seaweed salad at a restaurant, but never thought to make it at home. But now I want to. Also liking your new look here.

  3. Fiesta, indeed! This is such a great mix of ingredients, Shanna. I have to admit, though, that it’ the seafood salad that has my eye. I buy seaweed salad all of the time and the idea of combining it with the ingredients you’ve suggested sounds really good to me. 🙂

  4. I like any food that can be recycled into interesting leftovers.

    I do like seaweed, although I haven’t had it for ages – you’ve just reminded me.

  5. The colors are so nice and vibrant and any kid would probably like to eat those dishes! Thanks for sharing the recipes including the link. 🙂

  6. What a tasty and wonderful meal, except of,course for my extreme dislike is bell peppers. Plenty of other veggies work though. I also like how versatile it is, so,similar to other dishes I make. I am still trying to get my family on the quinoa bandwagon. They can all be hit or miss!

    1. Peppers pose problems with digestion for some people; for others it’s simply a taste issue. I have substituted sautéed or roasted cabbage in tacos, or even roasted winter and summer squash in fajitas, so this could be a nice substitute. You know your veggies, though, with that fabulous garden of yours! Enjoy your weekend + thanks for the sweet note.

      1. I enjoy squash in quesadilla or tacos. Shredded cabbage is also good. For me bell peppers is a taste thing. I do like spicy peppers though. Hubby just made a tomatillo salsa with tomatillos and jalapeños from the garden. Even seeding the peppers it was extremely spicy, and we both love spicy! Definitely to pair that one with sour cream or cheese!

      2. Thank you so much, Gretchen! We are actually making steak fajitas, beans and grilled corn. Homemade salsa and guac, of course! 😉 I would love your roasted tomatillo salsa recipe. It sounds super tasty!

      3. No real recipe, hubby threw it together. We had maybe ten small tomatillos he grilled with a couple jalapeños and onion. Then used immersion blender on all of it along with lime juice and some salt.

  7. We heard so much of this quinoa. But we still haven’t try any Quinoa recipes before. Reading this post makes us wanna try this recipe 🙂 . Looks so good and healthy 🙂 . And again your children are so cute!

    1. Thank you to my two favorite twins on the planet. 🙂 I hope you try quinoa soon. Read about how to cook it (there are quite a few methods). When you get it right, it has a lovely texture and nutty flavor. As good as rice if not better! Cheers!

  8. If you’re ever looking for a new career, think about becoming a dietitian. You’d be very good at it, because you know the nutritional stuff *and* how to make it taste great.
    By the way, is there a difference between quinoa pilaf and quinoa salad?

    1. According to internet research, the dish is a little of each. 🙂

      Salad: a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish.
      Pilaf: dish of rice (or grain) cooked in stock with spices, typically having meat or vegetables.

      Thanks for your warm words, Stefan! 🙂 Have a nice Sunday…

  9. I love your healthy meals Shanna. It is an inspiration for all of us to cook and eat well with family and friends. Bon Appetit!

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