Quinoa and red bean salad is an ideal centerpiece for a meal, served with fruit for lunch and soup for dinner.
The ingredients used make it a perfect choice for cooler weather, but you can certainly enjoy it any time of year. Extra eye appeal comes from the mini sweet peppers, which you can find in the produce department of well-stocked markets. Of course, you can substitute regular bell peppers if you prefer.
The salad gets a little extra zip from sweet chili sauce, which you can find in the Asian foods section of well-stocked supermarkets. Can’t find it? Just use some extra lime juice and olive oil, or replace the lime juice and oil with a well-flavored vinaigrette.
Complete the meal: Serve this on its own for lunch with a few tortilla chips and fresh fruit (it’s a good salad to pack for work). For dinner, add corn on the cob and/or a baked sweet potato, or serve as part of a soup and salad meal.
ARE YOU NEW TO QUINOA?
Quinoa seems like an established staple in the plant-based world, but here, for those who have yet to discover it, are a few basics:
- Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is an ancient food indigenous to the South American Andes. It was introduced to the American natural foods market in the 1980s.
- Quinoa is considered a superfood for its vitamin and mineral profile. Botanically, it’s more of a seed than a grain.
- You can use it as a bed of grain for vegetable or bean dishes as a change of pace from rice; to stuff winter vegetables, especially hard squashes; to make pilafs; and for delicious tabbouli-style salads like this one.
- The most common variety of quinoa grain is a kind of yellowish-tan, but red and black varieties are now available as well. They cook up the same way and taste pretty much the same as well; their appeal is mainly visual. Sometimes you can purchase a mix of all three colors.
- Quinoa cooks quickly and easily — use a ratio of liquid to grain of 2 to 1 (like 2 cups water or broth to 1 cup quinoa).
- 3/4 cup raw quinoa, rinsed in a fine sieve
- 2 or 3 sliced mini bell peppers, or 1/2 medium bell pepper, any color, finely diced
- 15-ounce can kidney or red beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro or parsley leaves
- 1 or 2 big handfuls baby spinach or other baby greens
- 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
- Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional additions (use any or all)
- Toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for topping
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped black olives
- 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- Combine the quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. If it’s not quite done to your liking add another 1/4 cup water and cook until absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a wide bowl or casserole dish so that it can cool quickly.
- Once the quinoa is just warm, add the peppers, beans, cilantro, spinach, chili sauce, lime juice, and olive oil and toss together. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add any or all of the optional ingredients. Let the salad stand for 30 minutes or so if time allows, so that the flavors can blend; otherwise, it’s fine to serve at once.
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