Fiesta Quinoa with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Quinoa, in case you’re unfamiliar, is that trendy new grain that South Americans have been eating for thousands of years. I had it for the first time a few months ago. It’s is a little bitter on its own so I like it with lots of other flavors.

For whatever reason, I feel the need to be spontaneous every time I make quinoa. I cook up a pot of it, then start sauteeing things. Once it was garlic, onions, zucchini and butternut squash. Another time it was tomato, corn and andouille sausage. This time I wanted something to go with salmon and chimmichurri (South American cilantro sauce).

I originally wanted a cold side dish, but it was just after spring break and my produce wasn’t fresh tasting enough. I salvaged some slightly shriveled red and green peppers by roasting them with salt, pepper and olive oil. I sauteed some garlic with part of a jalapeno and habanero. I also added frozen corn, black beans, lime juice, lots of spices and cilantro to the quinoa, and decided to serve it warm with a dollop of plain yogurt since I didn’t have sour cream. It went nicely with the fish, but wasn’t great.

For the leftovers, I decided to make a dressing that would improve the dish if served cold. I came up with a cumin-lime vinaigrette with cilantro that was just what the quinoa needed, and would be good on some other salads too. Next time I’ll keep the dish cold from the get-go.

Fiesta Quinoa with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

This recipe is how I would make this in the future, not the roundabout/ experimental way I did it originally.

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 12 ounces of black beans (I used little less than a full can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • red and green bell pepper, chopped
  • large clove of garlic
  • small hot pepper, diced (your preference. I used part of a jalapeno and 1/4 of a habanero)
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of broth or water to a boil. (I used water with salt, coarse ground pepper, a garlic clove, dried oregano and ground caradmom because I add it to everything.) Bring heat down to low, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until water is absorbed.

Now, you can sautee peppers and chilis with a little salt, pepper and olive oil, or you can leave them raw for more crunch. I like the sweetness the bell peppers get from being cooked.

Mix peppers and chilis with corn, black beans and cooked but cooled quinoa. (If

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you want this as a hot side, microwave the corn and black beans. Then add ground cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, chopped cilantro and juice from half a lime. Serve with sour cream.)

For a cold side dish, prepare lime vinaigrette instead. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes. (If using ground spices, it’s still good to toast them to bring out the flavor, but you might need more than 1/2 tablespoon.) Then grind the seeds with the garlic clove and some salt (I like using coarse sea salt here) with a mortar and pestle. Add a handful of chopped cilantro and mash some more. Add juice of one lime and equal parts (or slightly more) extra virgin olive oil. (A fruity Spanish olive oil was especially good for this.) Add fresh ground pepper and whisk till combined. If it’s too sour, add a bit of sugar.

Toss desired amount of vinaigrette with quinoa and other ingredients. Red onion would make a good addition. I can imagine it with fresh mango chunks, too.

Serve chilled. It makes a nice side or a good lunch to bring to work.

6 Replies to “Fiesta Quinoa with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette”

  1. Dead on right. What is it about quinoa–in fact, many grains like barley or brown rice–that encourage “spontaneous” cooking: digging in the pantry, looking for things to pair up with the grain. Love the notion in the picture of something creamy on the quinoa. Yum.

  2. David Lynch has an amusing and delicious quinoa recipe on the bonus DVD for his film Inland Empire. I highly recommend both the recipe and the film, and, uh, David Lynch in general.

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