Plane food can be good: Quinoa salad with radicchio and nuts

I don’t know about you guys, but man, I do hate plain plane food. You know, the food they serve you when flying? For years, I’ve been refusing to eat it, getting the looks. But hey, the food I bring myself usually is much better, so I don’t care at all. On my recent trip to Europe* I had the best food ever. I made this Quinoa salad with radicchio and nuts and definitely will make it the next time I have to eat high in the sky.


Usually I make a quiche or a frittata with lots of veggies. They’re easy to make in advance, filling, healthy if you care for it and easy to bring with you. For my recent trip I knew I did not had that much time to cook and cool food like that, so I took a different route.

I checked my fridge and saw radicchio – the red Italian bitter lettuce, arugula and watercress. All strong leaves that will stay good for a while. But most of all, all have a hearty, bitter taste that would tickle my taste buds up in the air.

Cause – and I only got confirmation of this when I looked it up for this blogpost (here and here) – it’s true that in the air your taste buds are dulled due to the cool, dry air and yes, even the noise. It’s the bitter, sour, umami and spicy flavors that do survive.  So it’s not the food, it’s us that’s the problem!

And now I know how to handle us:

You have to cook your own food!

The night before my trip I roasted some shivered almonds while my quinoa was cooking in vegetable stock. I poured in some hazelnut oil and a good amount of salt and pepper and let the seeds cool overnight. The morning of my trip I cut some radicchio leaves, arugula and half a bunch of watercress. I made a strong spicy dressing of the rest of the watercress, lime juice and hazelnut oil and took off.

One of the problems of airplane food itself, is that it’s made in advance, chilled, stored and reheated, which influences the quality. Negatively that is! Same thing happens with a ‘leafy’ salad. The leaves will deteriorate if kept too long outside a fridge and/or in a dressing that’s a bit acidic (what every dressing should be, if you’d ask me!).

So I kept all components of my food separate. The cooked and chilled quinoa, the cut leaves, the roasted nuts and a handful of raisins staid apart until the last moment. The watercress lime dressing I brought in a small bottle in the ziplock with my hand cream and other fluids I had in my cabin luggage. I got it checked without any problem.

Accidentally I kept it vegan, as I had planned to add a strong flavored salty cheese like blue or feta as well. But I forgot. And that was fine, I consider this dish another proof that vegan food is not boring at all.

For snacks I boiled an egg (and brought a salt package from a previous flight 😉 ) and cut a homegrown cucumber and a small jicama in snack size stripes. Needless to say, I had a great dinner.

Now I only need to find a way to have as good food when I’m not able to cook for my return flight…

* Check my Instagram feed for pictures of the food I ate in The Netherlands and Italy!

Quinoa Salad with Radicchio and nuts - limes-illustration-and-recipe-by-edie-eats-by-edith-dourleijn-small

Quinoa salad with radicchio and nuts [vegan]

Lesson learned: really spice up your food if you plan to eat it when in the air. I added much more salt, pepper and lime juice then I would do for dinner on the ground. If you plan to eat this on a plane; keep all elements separate and mix all in at the last moment to keep all leaves crunchy and the flavors fresh. Don’t forget to bring a fork! 

This is what I would use for dinner on the ground (for 1):
1/3 cup white quinoa *
2/3 cup vegetable stock (check quinoa package)
4 T hazelnut oil
salt + pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 T lime juice
4-5 leaves radicchio
small hand arugula
1 ‘bundle’ of watercress
1/4 cup raisins

* Actually, I had accidentally bought a mix of quinoa, millet and brown rice.

I did:
Cook the quinoa in the vegetable stock. Read package to see how much you need. Add about 1 tablespoon of hazelnut oil, salt and pepper, remove from the pot and let cool down completely.

Roast the almonds in a dry skillet until they start to brown and smell wonderfully.

Make the dressing. Chop half the watercress (leaves only) with a knife or blitz it in a kitchen machine/with an emersion blender. Mix in lime juice, salt, pepper and the rest of the hazelnut oil.

Cut the leaves of the radicchio and arugula in small bite-size pieces. Remove the stems from the watercress if you’d like.

Mix leaves, quinoa, raisins and dressing, and garnish with the toasted almonds.

Enjoy, wherever you are!


4 Replies to “Plane food can be good: Quinoa salad with radicchio and nuts

  1. Edie, You’ve inspired me to do a little more pre-planning for my next flight so that I can avoid plain plane food. This salad sounds perfect! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. You’re welcome Stacey! Can you believe that I’m actually looking forward to my next flight (nothing planned yet, though!) to make up something like this again? 😉

Join the cooking!