Quinoa is one of those foods that became super trendy, for a while. Super trendy until a lot of people actually tried it and decided they didn’t like it. The first way I ever made it was as a savory side dish, with mushrooms, veggie stock and fresh thyme and it was love at first bite.
My first recommendation on preparing quinoa is this: make sure you rinse it, rinse it and rinse it again, Or, better yet, buy the pre-rinsed stuff, which they happily sell now, but didn’t at the time I first started making it. I’ll admit I still rinse it briefly though…habit, I guess. If quinoa isn’t rinsed thoroughly enough, it tends to have a soapy taste to it. This is what I’ve heard, at least. I’ve always been a big rinser.
Secondly, for the love of all that’s holy, do not overcook quinoa. This one I have done and, trust me, it’s better to under-cook it just a tad, then to overcook it. This point is especially important when you’re going to make a salad out of it, because the quinoa is going to continue to soak up any liquid as it sits. If this happens with overcooked quinoa, you’re just going to end up with mush within a day or so.
Now that I’ve got all that out of the way, this really is just a basic Mediterranean salad with a quinoa base. You can make this with pasta as the base, lentils as the base, rice as the base, beans as the base, barley as the base…you get the idea.
- 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup black beans (if using canned beans, rinse them well and drain)
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 1 cup diced, de-seeded cucumber (slice the cuke in half and then run a spoon down its center, to remove the bulk of the seeds)
- 1/2 cup diced yellow pepper
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 1/2 cups halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice from one lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
In a small saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add quinoa. Stir well and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove lid and remove pan from heat. Fluff with a fork and let sit for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, cut of the veggies and parsley and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil and lemon juice and toss well. Add cooled quinoa and toss well, again.
Easy, right? Oh, and it’s truly delicious. So delicious that I’m loathe to tell you, in case you weren’t aware of it, that quinoa is super good for you. Just a one cup serving has almost 50% of your RDA of protein and fiber. Quinoa is actually a complete protein, meaning it contains all of your essential amino acids. That’s a pretty rare trait in the plant world. It’s also loaded with iron, magnesium and potassium. Not bad for a little seed, right?
Here’s the part where I encourage you to play with your food: I love to mix up the veggies and beans in this. Add steamed asparagus or broccoli, garbanzo beans, snow peas, roasted red peppers, black olives….it’s so easy and versatile. Have fun with this and enjoy!