My favorite taste-tester says that the first bite of this salad takes him straight back to Deep Mexico. The salad is hearty with high-protein quinoa, crunchy with vegetables and bright with lime. It's a real crowd pleaser!
Updated & republished in 2012, I've also added several new recipes to Favorite Summer Salad Recipes too! Yes, it's summer salad season!
Say "allillanchu" (hello!) to quinoa, a new food friend.
Her name is pronounced KEEN-wah and she’s from South America where she’s been cultivated for 5000 years. The ancient Incas called her "chesiya mama", that means "mother grain".
But the fact is, quinoa is not a grain at all but the fruit of a plant related to beets, chard and spinach. Still, she’s prepared and eaten like a grain so food people, for short, call her a grain.
This new friend, quinoa? She cooks fast, twice as fast as rice. She’s lighter and fluffier than couscous and tastes, subtly, like toasted nuts.
She’s packed with protein, a complete protein like meat’s. This means that quinoa is one of the healthiest grains around, some say, the super-grain of the future.
Long before Whole Foods and the explosion of international products online and on supermarket shelves, I cooked quinoa off and on. But it was hard to find and then only on dusty shelves in the odd corner natural-foods store where turnover was slow. Me, I’m glad to be re-introduced to the contemporary product, now raised in North as well as South America.
QUINOA & BLACK BEAN SALAD
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 8 cups
- 3 cups water
- 1-1/2 cups quinoa
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 - 4 tablespoons olive oil (see ALANNA’s TIPS)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Zest & juice from 3 limes (about 5 tablespoons juice & pulp)
- 1-1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
BEANS & VEGETABLES
- 15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-1/2 cups frozen corn (no need to thaw or cook)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 2 jalapeño peppers, minced (see TIPS)
- 2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), chopped
- Additional salt, if needed
QUINOA Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium high. Rinse quinoa well under cold running water. Add salt and quinoa to water, return to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer to colander to drain and cool slightly.
DRESSING Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.
BEANS & VEGETABLES Add the beans and vegetables to the bowl, stirring well to distribute the liquid throughout.
FINISH Stir quinoa into vegetables, really mixing to distribute. Taste and add salt if needed.
SERVE Cover and refrigerate to cool for at least 30 minutes. Can be made ahead but do serve it at room temperature. Keeps for several days.
COUSCOUS I've also made this with whole wheat couscous instead of quinoa. To 'cook' the couscous, just toss it with the vinegar and lime juice while assembling the other ingredients.
MUCH LESS OIL These days, I some times use only a tablespoon or two of oil. It's still delicious! Plus, without the oil, the lime shines through.
FRESH CORN During the summer, use fresh sweet corn, sliced straight off the ears into the bowl - luscious, so sweet and tender, no need to cook. Three ears will yield 1-1/2 cups of corn kernels but fresh corn is so good, you may want to add another ear or two.
CILANTRO The cilantro can "disappear" into the salad if you make it more than a couple of hours of time. To combat this, stir in the cilantro just before serving.
DILL Substitute fresh dill for a good portion of the cilantro, another great combination.
SKIP THE QUINOA! Oh! and leave out the quinoa entirely for a really good bean salad.
SALT For the longest time, I made this salad with two teaspoons of salt in the cooking water and two teaspoons in the salad itself. In the latest batch, that seemed waaaay too salty so I've cut that back to one teaspoon each.
TOASTING Once, I tried toasting the quinoa before cooking it, it's not worth the trouble.
CAN YOU TELL? This is one of my very favorite salads, it's so good and so versatile. People love it.
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