Some recipes are good because you know you shouldn’t eat them very often, which makes them a treat. Others are good because you can eat them as often as you’d like, with no guilt whatsoever. My food life is filled with foods from category two, and polka-dotted with treats from the first category. Food should always be a delight, no matter from the first or second category, don’t you agree?
My favorite kind of cooking happens when categories one and two collide. Making this quinoa salad is an indulgence in itself, and feels more like an art project than a chore.
The art project begins at the garden…or the farmers market…or at your favorite grocery store. Pretend you are reaching into your deluxe box of Crayons, and have fun choosing your colors. My Crayola box is filled with black bean, limey green, purple power onion, electric habañero orange, and sweet corn yellow. What about you?
Cooked and cooled quinoa (prounounced “keen-wah”) is the perfect background to splash colors upon. Not only does this little seed have a light nutty flavor and crunchy texture, but it is packed with all sorts of things that are good for you, like protein, iron, and amino acids. Lets suffice to say that if Popeye the Sailor Man were around today, he’d probably choose quinoa over spinach.
Now, it’s chop-chop time. Here’s where a sharp knife will be your best buddy. Layer your colorful veggies over your quinoa, drizzle your chile-lime vinaigrette, toss it all together, and then stand back to look at your work–a piece of (albeit abstract) art.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
This is a Summer salad, through and through. Choose an array of peppers, taking into consideration level of heat, sweetness and color. I like to keep a big bowl of this salad in the fridge to eat for lunches. Refresh with a splash of lime and a pinch of salt the day after you make it.
- 1 cup quinoa (any color), cooked and cooled (see instructions below)
- 1 or 2 avocados, peeled, pit removed, diced
- 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
- kernels from 1 cob corn, or 3/4 cup thawed frozen corn
- About 1 1/2 cups diced mildly spicy peppers (a mix of bell peppers, anaheim, etc…)
- 1/2 to 1 jalapeño, minced
- 1/2 to 1 small habanero, minced (optional, for heat)
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Chile Lime Vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 3/4 tsp ground cayenne
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the Quinoa:
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in cold water and drain. Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all all of the water has been absorbed. When fully cooked, the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of each seed (a white circle).
If the water has evaporated, but the germ ring is not yet visible, add a splash of water, and simmer for a few more minutes. Set aside until cool.
For the Vinaigrette:
Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until combined, or whisk in a small bowl.
For the Salad:
Put all of the salad ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and gently toss to combine.