Sure, quinoa is a complete protein and is known as a "superfood," so it's a great base for a hearty and healthful main dish salad. But we love it also for its intriguing and delicate texture and nutty flavor.
For a quinoa salad that showcased these great qualities, we started by toasting the quinoa to bring out its flavor before adding liquid to the pan and simmering the seeds until nearly tender.
We then spread the quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet so that the residual heat would finish cooking it gently as it cooled, giving us perfectly cooked, fluffy grains.
Black beans, mango, and bell pepper lent the salad bright flavor, color, and satisfying heft. A simple but intense dressing made with olive oil, lime juice, jalapeno, cumin, and cilantro gave this dish the acidity needed to keep its flavors fresh.
Finally, sliced scallions contributed bite, and a generous topping of avocado slices provided a creamy richness that balanced the bright dressing.
If you buy unwashed quinoa (or if you are unsure whether it's washed), be sure to rinse it before cooking to remove its bitter protective coating (called saponin).
QUINOA, BLACK BEAN, AND MANGO SALAD WITH LIME DRESSING
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 1/2 cups prewashed white quinoa
2 1/4 cups water
Salt and pepper
5 tablespoons lime juice (3 limes)
1/2 jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced thin
Toast quinoa in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until most of water has been absorbed and quinoa is nearly tender, about 15 minutes.
Spread quinoa on rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely, about 15 minutes; transfer to large bowl. (Cooled quinoa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Process lime juice, jalapeno, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt in blender until jalapeno is finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With blender running, add oil and cilantro; continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 20 seconds.
Add bell pepper, mango, beans, scallions, and lime-jalapeno dressing to cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping individual servings with avocado.
Nutrition information per serving: 480 calories; 239 calories from fat; 27 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 239 mg sodium; 52 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 11 g protein.