Quinoa is a gluten-free, grain-like seed which provides protein, fibre, and minerals. Unlike other grains, quinoa does not need to be combined with other foods in order to create a complete set of amino acids: it is a complete protein all by itself. It is cooked in a similar way to rice, simmering until the water has been absorbed. Its slightly nutty flavour and unique texture make it perfect for eating hot or cold. I came across this recipe on the Fat Free Vegan blog, and have adjusted it to suit my tastes. The original recipe says that it serves 8, but I’ve always found that it serves more. The fresh herbs and zippy flavour make this a refreshing salad that works well as a meal or a side-dish.
To start, cook and set aside:
1 1/2 cups rinsed quinoa in 2 1/4 cups water, allow the quinoa to cool before adding it to the salad.
I know that quinoa isn’t the cheapest grain out there. If this is a concern, you can replace the quinoa with a different grain that works well cold, or an additional can of chickpeas or other beans. Quinoa is quite filling, though, so I’ve always considered it good value for the level of nutrition it provides.
Combine in a large bowl:
2 cloves garlic: minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper: minced fine (Canned works well.)
1 jalapeno pepper: seeded and diced (This can be fresh or from a jar.)
1 large cucumber: peeled, seeded, and diced
2 medium to large tomatoes: seeded and diced (The cucumber and tomato are seeded to reduce the amount of liquid, and prevent the salad from becoming soggy.)
1 cup corn: cooked (Fresh or thawed from frozen will work.)
1 can chickpeas: drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green onions: thinly sliced
2/3 cup fresh parsley: chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves: sliced thin
3 ripe avocadoes: diced (To avoid browning, you can add the avocado just before serving.)
For the dressing: (This dressing acts like a marinade and is absorbed by the other ingredients.)
Combine in a small bowl:
1/4 cup lime juice (Lemon will not work with the flavours in this recipe.)
3 Tbsp. water
Mix the cooled quinoa with the salad ingredients before adding the dressing and mixing well. Be careful not to crush any of the ingredients, but make sure that the dressing is evenly distributed. This salad works best if it can rest in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight, just give it a mix occasionally to redistribute the dressing. Mix it again right before serving and add the avocado if you chose to wait. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days; the avocado might brown but that is just a colour change and doesn’t affect the flavour.
As written this recipe is gluten-free and vegan, but there are many ways to tailor it to suit your tastes. If you eat meat, some pancetta or bacon might be nice. If you’re watching your fat intake, you can omit the avocado. If you’re watching your carb intake, you can omit the corn and chickpeas and reduce the quinoa (quinoa is considered a low gi food). Some other nice additions would be some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of olive oil.
This salad adapts well to changes if you want to make it your own. I hope you enjoy it!