The Leafy Green That Is Not A Grain

by Heather Ferber on August 23, 2011

Last few weeks everyone has been talking about needing a few new recipes to wrap up the summer BBQ’s, pool parties, and nights on the deck.  Came across this yummy quinoa (KEEN-wah) recipe today and thought I’d blog a bit about one of my favorite non-grains.

Many people would guess that quinoa is related to the grain family (it looks like a grain, cooks like a grain, and has a nutty flavor); however, that is not the case. It’s actually related to the family of leafy green plants which includes beets, Swiss chard and spinach.  Quinoa is exceptionally healthy because it offers all nine essential amino acids making it a great source of protein.  You may purchase quinoa at many grocery stores (often in the “self serve” section) and it stores nicely for up to one year in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Quinoa salads are the perfect addition to any summary party and you probably won’t see ten of them on the table.   The nutty flavor also transitions well into fall celebrations as well.  Here’s a recipe, from The Perfect Pantry, that I’ve really enjoyed:

BLACK BEAN, QUINOA AND RED PEPPER SALAD WITH HONEY-LIME VINAIGRETTE

This dish comes together in minutes. It would be perfect for a picnic or potluck (double or triple the recipe), as a side dish to grilled salmon, or on its own for lunch. Serves 4-6.

1 cup quinoa
1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans
1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced
1 tsp minced jalapeño (optional)
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 tsp honey or agave nectar
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
Pinch of salt, or as needed

Place quinoa in a rice cooker with 2 cups of water; turn the cooker on and let it do its thing until it switches to “warm”, approximately 20 minutes. Or, place quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, red pepper, jalapeño and chopped scallion.

In a small jar, combine honey, lime juice, rice vinegar and canola oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (it should be a bit tart), and pour on the quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute the dressing evenly.

If you’re not serving right away, toss the salad again before serving, and adjust seasoning (the dressing will absorb into the quinoa, and the salad might need an additional bit of moisture if it sits for a while).

So for those of you who were looking for some fun, new party food ideas, considering giving quinoa salads a try!  Mmmmmm.

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