It was many years ago when my mum first set a bowl of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) in front of me. It didn’t look like rice. To my teenaged self, it resembled something straight out of a hippie-infested Woodstock-ian field. Quinoa is, in fact, a grain that originated in South America and was once known as “the gold of the Incas”. It became a sustaining grain for the people of the Andean region about 6000 years before Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin performed for the long-tressed flower-carrying children of the sixties.
Quinoa can be found in well-stocked supermarkets or health food stores, sold in boxes or in bulk. It is either sold as regular quinoa, which is tan in color, or in this pretty red version. If you are trying to clean up your diet, quinoa is a virtual powerhouse of protein, fiber and folate. I figure I can eat about four slices of bacon for every cup of quinoa I consume. Somehow I don’t think you will find that recommendation sanctioned by any national health organizations, but I can guarantee it will keep that feeling of deprivation in check.
This Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad by The Church Cook is packed with colorful vegetables, black beans, and a complementary lime-cumin dressing. My husband and I were immediately enamored with the taste and texture of this salad, and proceeded to eat several helpings, either by itself or combined with cooked chicken breast in whole-wheat wraps.
Now, I have a little confession to make. I typically use the lazy cook’s way of preparing quinoa. I simply combine one part quinoa with two parts water in a medium saucepan, bring the mixture to a bowl, cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the quinoa absorbs all of the water, about 20 minutes—just like cooking rice.
However, when I read Kay’s slightly more complicated method, I was up for the challenge. This is the method I am presenting to you in the following photos. Now, a cook that is not as messy as me probably will not spill the quinoa (and end up with a good quantity in her hair) when transferring the quinoa from the cheesecloth to the bowl. By the time I was done, it looked as though a tornado had blown throw my kitchen, leaving a very happy dog (licking the floor) in its wake.
For my own sanity and time considerations on busy weeknights, I will stick with my boil and simmer method. Whichever route you choose, I guarantee that you will be smitten by the tangy dressing, fresh vegetables, tender pop of the quinoa, and the promise of healthy protein and fiber.
Let’s start with the dressing.
You’ll need fresh lime juice, salt, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and olive oil. You’ll want some freshly ground pepper, too.
In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, and cumin.
Whisking constantly, slowly add olive oil in a thin stream until combined.
Season with pepper, to taste. Set aside.
Now let’s tackle the quinoa.
There is a natural coating on quinoa called saponin, which can have a bitter taste. In nature, the saponin helps to repel birds and insects. You have to love a grain that can fend for itself.
To remove any bitter taste, rinse the quinoa in several changes of cold water. Each time, let most of the quinoa sink to bottom of the bowl, then pour off the water.
Strain the quinoa in a large fine mesh sieve.
Bring 1 ½ quarts (about 6 cups) water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add some salt. Pour in the quinoa and boil for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare a colander by lining it with cheesecloth. I used the steamer insert for my double-boiler.
You can also use this time to prepare the other ingredients that go into this salad.
Drain the quinoa into the cheesecloth.
Add 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pot and bring the water to a boil. Set the steamer insert (with cheesecloth and quinoa) over the boiling water and cover. Be certain that the quinoa is not touching the water. Steam for 10 minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and cool.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, corn, chopped red and orange bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, and green onions.
Toss gently with the dressing and serve at room temperature.
Healthy, delicious Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad. Great as a side with fish tacos or as a vegetarian meal.
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 5 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 whole Garlic Clove, Finely Mined
- ¼ cups Finely Chopped Fresh Cilantro
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin, Or To Taste
- ⅓ cups Olive Oil
- ½ teaspoons Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 1-½ cup Red Quinoa (sold In Health Food Stores)
- 1 Tablespoon Table Salt, Add When Boiling Quinoa
- 1 can (14 Oz. Can) Black Beans, Drained, Rinsed
- 1-½ cup Corn Kernels, Fresh (cut From About 2 Large Ears)
- 1 cup Finely Chopped Colored Sweet Bell Peppers
- 1 whole Jalapeño Chilies, Seeded And Minced (wear Rubber Gloves)
- ¼ cups Finely Chopped Fresh Cilantro
- ¼ cups Finely Chopped Green Onions
For the dressing:
In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.
For the salad:
In a large bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes of cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear. Drain in a large fine sieve.
In a medium size pot, add the table salt to 1-1/2 quarts of boiling water and cook quinoa 10 minutes. Prepare a colander with cheese cloth over it and drain the cooked quinoa into cheese cloth.
Add 2 inches of water into the pot and bring water to boil. Place the quinoa (still in the colander or another small pan, so you have a double boiler effect), cover cooked quinoa with the cheesecloth and put a lid on your pot. Steam for an additional 10 minutes. Do not let quinoa touch the water. Fluff quinoa with a fork and cool.
Combine in a large mixing bowl the beans, corn, remaining vegetables, herbs, and cooled quinoa. Toss gently with the dressing. Can be prepared a day ahead for flavors to combine. Serve at room temperature.
Dara Michalski is a doll and a sweetheart who clearly knows her way around the kitchen. She blogs at Cookin’ Canuck, where she shares her flavor-packed recipes and fun, engaging writing. The photography’s pretty incredible, too.