Weekly Winner: Elevating Quinoa Beyond Celery Status

I have never been a fan of eating something simply because it is healthy.  It also has to taste good.  Case in point, celery. By itself, I don’t like the taste of celery but I understand the benefits of adding it to soups and such.  I just would never, ever eat celery by itself. Even slathering it in peanut butter, while definitely improving the taste, is simply a vehicle for eating peanut butter.  In my opinion, a spoon is a better tool for that.

I had the same ambivalent feelings toward quinoa.  I understand it is stupidly healthy, high in protein, and a revered “ancient grain”.  It’s also incredibly boring!  I guess that’s one thing it has over celery….I don’t dislike the taste on its own, because it has no taste on its own.  It’s sort of like eating cardboard pellets. I just didn’t know why I would want to willingly do that.  That is, until last night.

Enter: Fiesta Quinoa Salad.  Look out, because quinoa is now hosting a fiesta!  It’s fun!  It’s festive!  I dare say it is company-worthy!  And the best part is that the stuff you add to the Fiesta Quinoa to make it a fiesta and to actually improve the taste not only doesn’t detract from its inherent healthiness, it actually adds to it!

The original recipe called for grilled, skewered shrimp on top.  I had a hankering for salmon and it was pouring outside so I called an audible and made it with seared salmon. I also had a bag of frozen, roasted corn that sat in nicely for the fresh grilled corn (and so much easier!). Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I used a yellow bell pepper instead of red, but threw in some red grape tomatoes that I had to add some more color.  I know, I’m such a recipe rebel….switching proteins, adding veggies!  Total recipe anarchy!  And if you’ve read a single other post I’ve written you know I omitted the cilantro!

Speaking of the original recipe, it comes from Fine Cooking Magazine. If you are suffering from quinoa fatigue or boredom, here’s the answer to your quinoa conundrum. The recipe I’ve included is just for the salad.  Be bold!  Top it with whatever you want (not that the grilled skewered shrimp would have been bad).

Fiesta Quinoa Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup white quinoa, rinsed

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 medium cloves garlic, smashed to a paste

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large ears of corn (or about 2 cups frozen roasted corn, thawed)

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium red bell pepper (or yellow, as the case may be), finely diced

4 medium scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup cilantro leaves (very, very, optional)

Procedure:

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, the lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and whisk until combined.

If using fresh corn, brush them with 1 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until charred in spots, about 8 minutes.  Let the corn cool briefly, then cut the kernels from the cob.  Or, simply open a bag of frozen roasted corn and run briefly under warm water, drain and proceed).

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, corn, beans, bell pepper and scallions.  Toss with the dressing and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

 

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