I have found the perfect summer salad. It’s nutritious, tasty, and relatively easy to prepare (the ‘relatively’ part will be evident later in this post). It’s made up of your typical southwestern elements: hearty black beans, sweet corn, smoky cumin, tangy lime juice, fresh cilantro, and of course, pickled jalapenos – the ingredients alone were enough to make my tastebuds get outta bed.
I stumbled upon this recipe on Epicurious while digging around for interesting ways to incorporate quinoa into our diet. Quinoa is considered to be an amazing superfood. It is actually a seed that happens to be a complete protein (all nine amino acids, thank you very much!), but it walks and talks like a grain. This all equates to almost zero guilt for gorging on this salad – at least, I’d like to convince myself of that since I practically ate the full recipe by myself within, oh, 24 hours (and that includes 8 hours of sleep!). It’s also an excellent way to get some protein into a carb-happy toddler.
This recipe instructs you to steam the quinoa – boy, what a revelation that was for me. I had read about the steaming process before, but dismissed it as being too complicated and chose to cook my quinoa using the absorption method. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there that can produce super fluffy, perfectly chewy quinoa doing it the absorption way, but I was definitely not one of them and mine always ended up a bit too mushy and clumpy. My error, obviously, was overcooking the quinoa, and fortunately the steaming method is pretty forgiving on this front since you parboil the quinoa for a bit before draining and finishing it off in a sieve over simmering water (gadget plug: a strainer with a handle works perfectly for this). It yielded perfectly fluffy and dry quinoa with no clumping – hooray! If this all sounds too fussy to bother with, it truly truly isn’t and the results are totally worth it.
I used frozen corn instead of fresh (perfectly fine), and I added cherry tomatoes for a blast of color, whose sweet acidity was a perfect complement to the other fresh, lively flavors. This salad easily serves as a light entree on its own, but it would also be a perfect side dish to summer’s grilled meats.