Looking for something a little different for dinner? The quinoa salad from M Cafe is bright, refreshing and filling if you're looking for something on the lighter side. Oh, and it's vegan.

Quinoa is cooked with finely diced beets, which tint the quinoa a vibrant shade of red. Cool the quinoa, then add cucumber, lemon zest and herbs and toss the salad with a tangy fresh vinaigrette.

The recipe does require a little forethought when it comes to ingredients and a shopping list (you'll need to buy umeboshi vinegar -- available at Whole Foods and Asian markets). And you might as well shop for extra of everything -- yeah, this salad is good enough you'll probably want a double batch.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/05/dinner-tonight-scarlet-quinoa-salad.html#sthash.j895BccN.dpuf

Looking for something a little different for dinner? The quinoa salad from M Cafe is bright, refreshing and filling if you're looking for something on the lighter side. Oh, and it's vegan.

Quinoa is cooked with finely diced beets, which tint the quinoa a vibrant shade of red. Cool the quinoa, then add cucumber, lemon zest and herbs and toss the salad with a tangy fresh vinaigrette.

The recipe does require a little forethought when it comes to ingredients and a shopping list (you'll need to buy umeboshi vinegar -- available at Whole Foods and Asian markets). And you might as well shop for extra of everything -- yeah, this salad is good enough you'll probably want a double batch.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/05/dinner-tonight-scarlet-quinoa-salad.html#sthash.j895BccN.dpuf

Looking for something a little different for dinner? The quinoa salad from M Cafe is bright, refreshing and filling if you're looking for something on the lighter side. Oh, and it's vegan.

Quinoa is cooked with finely diced beets, which tint the quinoa a vibrant shade of red. Cool the quinoa, then add cucumber, lemon zest and herbs and toss the salad with a tangy fresh vinaigrette.

The recipe does require a little forethought when it comes to ingredients and a shopping list (you'll need to buy umeboshi vinegar -- available at Whole Foods and Asian markets). And you might as well shop for extra of everything -- yeah, this salad is good enough you'll probably want a double batch.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/05/dinner-tonight-scarlet-quinoa-salad.html#sthash.j895BccN.dpu

Looking for something a little different for dinner? The quinoa salad from M Cafe is bright, refreshing and filling if you're looking for something on the lighter side. Oh, and it's vegan -- and gluten-free.

Quinoa is cooked with finely diced beets, which tint the quinoa a vibrant shade of red. Cool the quinoa, then add cucumber, lemon zest and herbs and toss the salad with a tangy fresh vinaigrette. The recipe does require a little forethought when it comes to ingredients and a shopping list (you'll need to buy umeboshi vinegar -- available at Asian markets and select well-stocked stores). And you might as well shop for extra of everything -- yeah, this salad is good enough you'll probably want a double batch.

Or try a simple recipe for swordfish with tomatoes and fennel. It makes a great weeknight meal and you can make it in less than an hour.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Cook a couple swordfish steaks in garlic and fennel for a few minutes on each side, then add a little white wine and whole cherry tomatoes and let the dish simmer away until the steaks are done. Remove the steaks and cook down the liquid with a little slivered fresh basil until it's nicely thickened (yes, the aroma is amazing!). Pour the sauce over the swordfish and you're good to go. The dish, from food editor Russ Parsons, takes only about 40 minutes from start to finish.

And chicken is always a good option. A recipe adapted from Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home," these crisp, braised chicken thighs are rich yet bright with a great harmony of flavors, including olives, lemon zest and thinly sliced fennel. The whole dish comes together in just over an hour.

You can find all three recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

M CAFE'S SCARLET QUINOA SALAD

Total time: 45 minutes, plus cooling time for the quinoa

Servings: 6

Note: Umeboshi (plum) vinegar can be found at Whole Foods markets and Asian markets.

UMEBOSHI-LEMON DRESSING:

2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons dill pickle juice

1 tablespoon best-quality olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, pickle juice and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until needed. This makes one-fourth cup dressing.

SCARLET QUINOA AND SALAD ASSEMBLY

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup finely diced red beets

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup diced Japanese or Persian cucumber

2 teaspoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped dill

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Umeboshi-lemon dressing

Salt

1. Wash the quinoa under cold running water in a fine strainer. Drain well.

2. In a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the beets, vegetable broth, olive oil and lemon juice. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the quinoa, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, about 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat and drain any remaining liquid.

3. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a baking sheet. Refrigerate the grains, uncovered, until cool.

4. Fluff the cooled grains and place them in a large bowl. Gently stir in the cucumber, chives, dill and lemon zest. Stir in half of the dressing, then taste the salad and add additional dressing or salt as desired.

Each serving: 146 calories; 4 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 220 mg. sodium.

SWORDFISH WITH TOMATOES AND FENNEL

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

2 ( 3/4 - to 1-pound) swordfish steaks

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 pound whole cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves

1. Pat the swordfish steaks dry with a paper towel on both sides. Season each side with a pinch each of salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil, garlic and fennel seeds in a skillet over medium heat until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes.

3. Lay the swordfish steaks on top of the garlic and fennel seeds and cook until they turn white on the cooked side, 5 minutes. Turn the steaks over, laying them on top of any excess garlic and fennel seeds and cook another 5 minutes.

4. Add the white wine and tomatoes, cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the meat is easily penetrated with a skewer or paring knife (the swordfish must be well-done or it will be fibrous). Timing will vary depending on the thickness of the steaks -- thin steaks may take less than 5 minutes while very thick steaks may take as long as 15 minutes.

5. Remove the lid and transfer the swordfish to a heated platter. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and cook until the liquid in the pan reduces to a syrupy sauce, about 5 minutes. Pour any liquid that has collected in the platter into the sauce and stir in the basil.

6. Pour the sauce over the swordfish steaks and serve immediately.

Each of 6 servings: 235 calories; 25 grams protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 48 mg. cholesterol; 115 mg. sodium.
CRISPY BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH OLIVES, LEMON AND FENNEL

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller with Dave Cruz.

3 large fennel bulbs

12 chicken thighs

Kosher salt

Canola oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

3/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 cup Ascolane or other large green olives, such as Cerignola

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

4 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

8 thyme sprigs

1 cup chicken broth

About 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Cut off the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by- 1/2 -inch batons. You need 3 cups of fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.

3. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with a pinch of salt. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the thighs skin side down and lightly brown, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of the oil in the pan. Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

5. Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme, then pour in the chicken broth. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

6. Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (The meat will be firm and the juices will run clear, and a thermometer inserted should read 165 degrees.)

7. Turn on the broiler, and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the parsley leaves.

Each serving: 450 calories; 33 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 29 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 115 mg. cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 645 mg. sodium.

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