Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick & Easy Quinoa Salad

 After doing a quick once-over of my blog, I realized that the baked goods are starting to overwhelm my other offerings. Despite what has been shown thus far, I really love to cook. So, here's to some more savory coming your way!
On Quinoa (keen-wah)
You may not have heard of this new "it" superfood: quinoa. About a year ago, I hadn't heard of it either. But something happened, and it exploded on the culinary scene. Almost every grocery store I've been to lately has it stocked (HEB, Randalls, etc.), and I have been seeing more and more articles espousing it's wonderful benefits. So, what's the big deal?

Quinoa is the only grain-like crop that also serves as a protein (the edible part is actually seeds). Which is pretty amazing because you can cook it up like rice, oatmeal, or pasta, but you also get the powerful punch of protein. This is really great news for vegetarians, health nuts, or people wanting to try something new. It also contains several amino acids (like lysine), calcium, and iron. It was originally cultivated in South America, and was supposedly the sacred food of the Inca (maybe that's why they were so badass).

So jump on the bandwagon, head to your nearest store, and stock up. You should be able to find the red or white variety. I used the white variety, because I like the way it allows the colors of the vegetables to pop, and I think it has a slightly milder flavor than the red. But try both, and see what you prefer!

This upcoming recipe has been my favorite dish featuring quinoa I've made or eaten--by far. It's really tasty warm, room temperature, or cold. It's also versatile, and serves as a light dinner with some chips and salsa, or a small quesadilla, a go-to lunch item, or a dish to leave in the fridge and snack on for a few days. And as I'll mention below, it is a quick recipe to make, and easy to mix up depending what you have on hand.

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

* 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I hear it needs to be rinsed or it has a strange flavor)
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 cup red onion, diced
* 1 cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced
* 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
* Big handful of chopped cilantro (1/4-1/2 cup depending on your taste for it)
* 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
* 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2-3/4 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Optional: 2 pinches cayenne pepper (if you like heat!)

* Optional: sliced avocado to serve on the side or diced avocado to mix in

(lime and avocado not pictured)


* Add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a saucepan.
* Bring to a boil, and then cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes (until water is absorbed).
* While the quinoa is cooking, make your dressing by adding the lime juice, vinegar, EVOO, and spices to a large bowl.
* Whisk to combine.
* Then, slice and dice the vegetables and cilantro.
* When the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork.
* Add the quinoa and black beans to the vinaigrette (you will want to whisk the vinaigrette again if it's been a while, because the oil will start to separate).
* Mix in your chopped veggies, and then you may want to add a little more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
* Serve warm or cold! Garnish with some cilantro or lime zest to make it look fancy.
* Note: I really love avocado, but was worried about it looking brown after a day or two, so I just mixed it in when I served the salad. The avocado adds a nice creaminess, and is a wonderful balance to the heat from the spices and zest of the lime.
Hope you guys see--and taste--that eating healthy can also be incredibly delicious!


* No bell pepper? Try your favorite tomato diced, or cherry and grape tomatoes halved instead.
* No red onion? Try yellow or sweet, or scallions instead.
* No red wine vinegar? Try white wine vinegar, apple cidar vinegar, or skip the vinegar all together, and add a little more lime juice or some lime zest.
* Spices- add more or less depending what you like, see what other mexican spices you have in your pantry also.
* Try adding some fresh corn to the recipe.

Leftover Ingredient Woes
* One thing I really hate is when I make a recipe, and then have something like half a red onion or half a bunch of cilantro left, when I don't really have anything on hand that I can utilize with those ingredients. If these are ingredients you typically would be clueless with, and don't want them to go to waste, try making some quesadillas or fajitas the week you make this recipe also. The leftover red onion would be delicious sauteed and added to either dish, and also garnished with the cilantro!

~Stay fresh!


  1. I'm so excited you posted this! I just bought quinoa yesterday because it's the "it" thing to do, but had no idea how I would prepare it. I'll be making this tonight!

  2. Yay! Let me know how you like it!

  3. Update: I made this the other night and LOVED it! I didn't have the vinegar, so just added more lime juice as you suggested. I also added in green onions. Delicious!

  4. Sounds fantastic! Thanks for the update :)

  5. I love quinoa! I will be trying this recipe soon. :0)