Black Bean & Quinoa Salad

This recipe is a staple in our summer meal planning. It is tasty and really quick and easy to make.  It is also a really forgiving recipe that lends itself well to substituting ingredients.

Quinoa is a power packed little grain which is really high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, iron, calcium, magnesium and other micronutrients. It is a complete protein and it is gluten free, so this little powerhouse of a grain is well suited for those on a vegetarian or gluten free diet. Research has shown that quinoa has an anti inflammatory effect on our body, reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol in animals, making it an excellent part of heart disease prevention. Quinoa also has a much lower glycemic index than other grains and starches so it is an excellent choice for those with diabetes and those trying to minimize spikes in blood sugar.

I was so sad to hear Christopher Kimball, of America’s Test Kitchen, disparage quinoa on one of his radio show episodes. I definitely disagree with his stance that quinoa is bitter and not worth cooking or eating. The bitter components of quinoa, saponins, nearly disappear with cooking leaving a light and very flavorful grain that is so tasty it can be eaten plain, if one so wishes. So give it a try. Not only does it taste good but it is incredibly good for you too!

This recipe is one of our favorite ways of eating quinoa. The version pictured above, uses cilantro fresh from our garden and a pint of cherry tomatoes picked today at The Small Farm in Stow, MA. They have a great pick your own Cherry Tomato Maze where children and the young at heart are more than welcome to sample all they can eat from a number of colorful and delicious varieties. Our garden tomatoes are still green on the vine so my two year old daughter was delighted to eat sweet ripe tomatoes to her heart’s content. For a completely different meal try substituting chickpeas (for the black beans), lemon (for the lime), parsley (for the cilantro) and cucumber (for the carrot). Or substitute any vegetable that you have on hand for those listed in the recipe!

Ingredients

3 teaspoons grated lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
41/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed & drained
4 scallions (or 2 shallots), finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Whisk together lime zest and lime juice, olive oil, scallion (or shallots), maple syrup, salt, cumin and black pepper in a large bowl.

Put quinoa in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Combine quinoa and 2 cups of water in a 4 quart sauce pan. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked. (Hint: You can make quinoa in a rice cooker using the same proportions. Just combine quinoa and water and cook on the white rice setting. A good rice cooker lets you set a timer so that you add the water and grains to the cooker in the morning and have it ready for you when you get home in the evening!)

Let quinoa cool, add dressing and combine well. Stir in remaining ingredients and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sliced avocado.  Serves 4.

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