One of my family's favorite lighter meals is this Quinoa Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing. I serve it with grilled fish or chicken. It's a breeze to put together.
It's a breeze to put together. You cook up some quinoa, which takes about fifteen minutes, and then tuck it in the fridge to chill. While it grows cold, you chop up all sorts of vibrant additions like avocado, tomato, red onion and jalapeno before tossing it all together with lime juice and olive oil.
The Goodness in Quinoa
Quinoa is the seed of a plant that originated in the Andean mountains of South America, where it was cultivated by indigenous peoples for five to seven thousand years.
Andean peoples held a sacred place in their culinary traditions for quinoa where it was used liberally, and, was particularly treasured by nursing mothers as it was thought to support an adequate and abundant milk supply (source).
Quinoa is rich in minerals like manganese, magnesium and phosphorus as well as antioxidants like quercetin. It is likewise rich in protein, and is a good source of folate, a nutrient critical to women of reproductive age for its ability to mitigate the risk of neural tube defects.
Quinoa's not really a grain.
While we use quinoa like a grain, and often refer to it as a grain. Quinoa is not truly a grain at all; rather, it's a pseudoceral - or a seed that we use like a cereal grain. Quinoa is the seed of a leafy plant in the Amaranth family.
Cooking with Quinoa
Quinoa can be bitter, owing to the presence of saponins that coat the exterior of the seeds. By rinsing quinoa thoroughly before cooking, you can reduce its natural bitterness. Your best bet, however, is simply to purchase from quinoa from a company that has already rinsed (or sprouted!) the quinoa in advance (this is the one I buy).
Where to Find Sustainably and Ethically Grown Quinoa
You can find quinoa at any well-stocked health food store, and most grocery stores. Much of the quinoa on the marketplace is sourced from outside the US. This is why it's important to look for a company that values organic, ecologically sound farming, that supports the livelihoods and growth of local farmers and the sustainability of communities.
The interest in quinoa has sparked economic prosperity for not only Peruvian quinoa farmers, but also their communities (read it here).
When quinoa is not available to me locally, I purchase from truRoots (and you can see their commitment is to farmers here) and have developed this recipe in partnership with them. You can find their quinoa in most health food stores as well as in Costco, or find a local store here.
Quinoa Salad with Cumin Lime Vinaigrette
- 2 cups quinoa
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon finely ground real salt
- 1 medium avocado pitted and diced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 medium jalapeño sliced thin
- 1 cup cilantro leaves loosely packed
- 2 medium limes juiced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Pour the quinoa into a saucepan and cover with water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until quinoa is is tender, about 15 minutes. Spoon the quinoa into a large mixing bowl, fluff with a fork, and then refrigerate at least 1 hour until cold.
- Toss the cold quinoa with avocado, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño and cilantro leaves.
- Prepare the dressing by whisking lime juice with garlic, cumin, salt and olive oil. Dress the quinoa salad and serve immediately. Leftovers will store, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator up to 5 days.