Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day without perishing or complaining too awfully much.

My sister is always sending me recipes containing interesting grains. She's hipper than I am. Thank goodness. (Of course, being hipper than I am is not a tremendous feat, so don't let it go to your head, Bec.)

Months ago she sent me this recipe for Quinoa Black Bean Salad and at least 2 months ago, I bought the quinoa. I knew I had to make it as a side dish for something or as a lunch for myself. If you've been reading this blog pretty much at all, you probably know why. If you haven't, it's because my husband and kids would look at a dish such as this with a name that cannot even be pronounced in the queen's English and then they would barf, right there in their seats. Or at least they would pretend to barf right there in their seats. And then they would whine, unmercifully. Because there is color in this, and a grain with a name that cannot be sounded out, and little black beans, and teeny tiny onions, and--food felony of them all--chunkies; it is, in fact, chunkiness incarnate. (Would they have liked it better if I had pureed it for them? No. No, they would not.)

But perhaps you enjoy something with texture, diversity, vegetables, nutrition. Perhaps you enjoy something with a pleasing mix of sweet and salty, citrus and grain, Perhaps you enjoy a food that was once such a precious commodity that it was called the "mother of all grains" and the "gold of the Incas." What was so amazing about it? For one thing, it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. For another, it is a crazy high source of iron for a plant food. For another, it can be sprouted in just a couple hours by sitting it in a clean jar of clean water (I haven't tried this one at home, so we're trusting the internet here). And for one more thing, the birds and bugs tended to leave it alone, which is why it was so valuable to the Incans who, after all, could not just sprinkle some sevin over all their crops.

However, I should warn you that it was undesirable to pests because it has a soapy-tasting coating. This is easily removed and if you buy your quinoa in a box, you'll most likely not have to worry about it at all. However, if you buy your quinoa in bulk (where it is most likely much cheaper), you'll want to rinse it for several minutes in a fine mesh strainer.

You cook quinoa like you cook rice--2 C water to 1 C dry grain--simmered in a pot until the liquid is absorbed.

And do try to find it in bulk (a health food store of a co-op are probably your best bets) because the little boxes on the little shelves of the store are going to leave you thinking it should still be called the gold of the Incas.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $3.20
(quinoa: 1.00, butter: .15, orange: .25, black beans: .55, tomatoes: .80--this is a guess; I have home-canned ones; onions: .20, cilantro: .25--guessing on onions and cilantro too--mine were home grown)

1 C quinoa
2 C water
2 tsp grated citrus zest (I used orange and it was great)
2 Tbsp citrus juice
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (or about 1 C of fresh chopped tomato)
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped (I didn't have fresh, so used 2 Tbsp dry)

Wash quinoa by putting it in a fine mesh strainer and running water through it for a few minutes.

Put it in a pot, cover it with 2 C water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your dressing and vegetables. Whisk together zest, juice, butter, oil, salt, and sugar. Chop your onions and cilantro and tomatoes if fresh. Rinse your beans.

When quinoa is ready, add dressing and toss until it is aborbed. Then stir in remaining ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm.

Note: The leftovers the next day were pretty good, but after that, I felt like they were mushy and not as good.


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