I know quinoa has been all the rage lately. I hadn't worked with it up until now. Why not? Maybe it was the rebellious kid in me coming out, refusing to do what everyone else wants her to do? Maybe it was a fear of the unknown? Fear of failure? Maybe it was just that I was afraid I would plan out a dish and for the first time we wouldn't like it at all. I mean you should have seen Kevin's nose wrinkle up when I said I was making quinoa. Jessi was less indirect about it and just flat out told me she thought quinoa was gross. Nice! Now my nerves are really going. I really have been wanting to try quinoa because it is a great substitute for rice in dishes and much healthier. But how in the heck am I supposed to use it if no one will like it? *sigh*
After mulling it around in my head, thinking of dishes that might hide the fact that there was quinoa in it I opted to just go for it and make what sounded good to me. I love avocado, so I started from there. It has been a while since I made anything with a Mexican flair, so I headed down that road and added black beans and tomatoes But what about a dressing or sauce? I had thought to just dress it with some lime juice, but I wanted to pull in another of my new favorites and do a creamy dressing with Greek yogurt. Once I sat back and looked at the ingredients I had written down I thought, "This is a pretty healthy dish" my next thought? "Wow nobody is going to like this". Usually I take dishes that we love and try to make them healthier, but there was no hiding that this was just a healthy dish. Oh well, I crossed my fingers and dove right in.
I soaked my quinoa, as per a suggestion from another blogger, and then cooked it quite simply in water. I had thought to use chicken stock because so many people say quinoa is just bland. But I also wanted to make this dish vegetarian, so that is why I opted for water. I would have used vegetable stock if I had some though.
Once the quinoa was cooked, I let it set in the pot for a bit with the lid on (about 10 or 15 minutes) and then fluffed it with a fork. I decided it was the moment of truth and took a bite. Yes, it is bland, but so is plain rice. I always cook my rice in stock for that reason. The quinoa had a nice fluffy texture. I read somewhere that it looks like "funky couscous" and I agree with that. I have also heard that lightly toasting the quinoa before cooking it adds a nutty flavor. But for this recipe I wanted plain quinoa.
The verdict? Kevin actually liked it. He told me it was "different" which at first I thought was a nice way of telling me he didn't like it. But he set me straight and explained that he just had never had a salad like this before and that he really liked the flavors. I have to admit, Greek yogurt with the lime and cilantro really made the whole dish "pop". Now I am excited to try quinoa in tons of other things!!
Creamy Cilantro Lime Salad with Quinoa, Avocado, Tomato, and Black Beans
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 large avocados, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 limes, 1 lime zested
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Rinse 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa and then let it soak in a pot of water for 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add 2 cups of water or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water has cooked out. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to sit in the covered pot for about 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Set the pot aside.
Using a food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, Greek yogurt, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, lime zest, jalapeno, and the juice of two limes. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut your avocados in half and remove the pits. Using a large spoon, carefully scoop the avocado out of the skin and place on a cutting board. Cut the avocado into a large dice. Squeeze the juice of the third lime over the avocado and sprinkle with salt.
In a large bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, and quinoa. Stir to combine. Then add your avocado and the dressing to the bowl (use as much or as little as you want). Gently fold the dressing into the salad. Garish with a few chopped cilantro leaves if you want.
Serves 6 as a side dish