Monday, January 6, 2014

Pressure-Cooked Quinoa Salad with Cauliflower

Pressure-Cooked Quinoa Salad with Cauliflower

In addition to setting a resolution to use my pressure cooker more this year, I also vowed to spend more time with my collection of cookbooks, like Modernist Cuisine at Home, Nathan Myhrvold's beautiful work that applies molecular gastronomy techniques to recipes for home cooks (it's the much shorter, simpler partner to the professionals' Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking).

You won't get very far with Modernist Cuisine at Home unless you have either a pressure cooker or a sous vide machine (or both). When I got the book, I had neither. I made the macaroni & cheese, but after that realized I needed a pressure cooker if I was going to make many of the other recipes.

This recipe for quinoa salad with cauliflower is one of the book's most accessible dishes. There's really only two "tricks" employed here: grate the cauliflower so it resembles couscous and cook the quinoa in the pressure cooker.

Quinoa cooks in a pressure cooker in the fraction of the time to boil or simmer it in a saucepan.

Why cook the quinoa this way? It saves time. It took about 10 minutes to boil the quinoa in Ginger-Hoisin Salmon with Quinoa Pilaf, not counting the time to boil the water, and about 35 minutes total cooking time to soak, boil and simmer the quinoa for Roasted Parsnip-Quinoa Salad. In this recipe, once up to pressure, the quinoa cooks in 4 minutes.

Use a mandolin to slice off just the tips of the cauliflower florets, creating a pile of couscous-like bits.

Otherwise, the rest of this dish is typical salad ingredients--diced apple, toasted pine nuts, parsley, currants--and a tangy vinaigrette dressing. The recipe calls for honey vinegar and macadamia nut oil for the dressing. Finding neither at the grocery store, I substituted white balsamic vinegar as suggested, along with walnut oil (if you can't find white balsamic vinegar, I imagine white wine vinegar or even apple cider vinegar would also be good).

Be careful with the mandolin as you prepare the cauliflower, since you can't use the safety guard to perform the task of shaving the tips of the cauliflower into a pile of little crumbs.

Pressure-Cooked Quinoa Salad with Cauliflower
Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home, by Nathan Myhrvold

3 cups water
1 3/4 cups white quinoa
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 green apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup diced celery (about 2 ribs)
1/4 cup dried currants
2 1/2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (original recipe called for honey vinegar, which I couldn't find, but said white balsamic could be substituted)
2 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. walnut oil (original recipe called for macadamia nut oil)
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste (I used fresh juice from 1/2 lemon)

1. Place a baking sheet in the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes.

2. Combine water and quinoa in a pressure cooker. Seal the pressure cooker, set desired pressure to "high" and bring to pressure over medium-high heat. Once high pressure is achieved, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 4 minutes, maintaining high pressure. Depressurize the pressure cooker by running cold water over the lid. Transfer the quinoa to the chilled baking sheet to cool quickly.

3. Toast the pine nuts in a small nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

4. Using a mandoline on its smallest setting (1/16-inch on mine), carefully shave off just the tips of the cauliflower, yielding about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of couscous-like cauliflower shavings.

5. Combine the cooked quinoa, toasted pine nuts, shaved cauliflower, apple, parsley, celery and currants in a large bowl. Add the vinegar, oils, salt and lemon juice and toss to combine.


  1. This was delicious and I thank you for making it, but isn't quinoa out in 2014?

  2. I finally got my hands on Modernist Cuisine at Home a few weeks ago, and just finished reading it (cover to cover) yesterday. Isn't it WONDERFUL? But of course, now I want a sous vide machine, a combi oven, one of those siphons, etc. ;D

    If you like Asian food, try the pork adobo recipe (its a Philippine, not a Spanish style adobo) - its pretty easy, and fairly accessible, especially if you substitute pork shoulder for the pork belly (as they indicated you could). It was delicious.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I'll check out that recipe. I love browsing through Modernist Cuisine at Home. It's one of the most beautiful cookbooks I own.