Not that it ever went anywhere. It was there the whole time, just lonely. I feel like whole grains, cereals, and pseudo-cereals (like quinoa) are too often overlooked. When you finally discover how awesome they are it’s usually only after a friend dares you to take them to prom on a bet, but things turn sour after she finds out and… oh, wait. That’s the plot of She’s All That.
Anyway, the point is that a gem like this is often overlooked because commonplace cereals and grains, like rice and pasta, steal the spotlight. That’s a shame, because whole grains can be loaded with quite a bit of flavor and nutritional goodness. Quinoa, not even technically a grain (a pseudo-cereal seed), seems to slip by unnoticed. Often times, to get people to be aware of them, a bet from Colonel Hugh Pickering has to be made to teach the poor thing how to believably mingle in upper-class society with a series of voice coaching lessons–What’s wrong with me? That’s My Fair Lady.
I’m just trying to say that quinoa is really great and not nearly well known enough. It’s also pretty ridiculously healthy. Not only is it fairly protein rich, but it’s one of the very few vegetarian complete proteins out there. It’s also chock full of other nutrients like manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus.
If all that hasn’t convinced you to try this grain, maybe recipe will; It’s easy to make and hard to mess up. Really. It’s dead simple. The only cooking required is to simmer the quinoa in some water for 15 minutes or so. It practically comes with a marker that tells you when it’s ready. Take a look at it after the times up… notice those little rings that form around the outside of it? It’s done.
OK. So if it this great, there must be some kind of downside to this dish, right? Nope. You do have to chop a few vegetables: dice an onion or shallot, cut up some green onions, and dice a bell pepper. You’ll be done with that before the quinoa even finishes cooking.
The one thing in this dish that I would insist you don’t leave out is the chipotle pepper. It’s a small addition, but adds a deceptively large amount of flavor.
Makes 6-8 servings. It’s surprisingly filling.
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of half lemon (1 to 1.5 tbsp)
1 chipotle in adobo, minced (with the sauce) (about 1.5 tbsp)
2 cans (15oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 small red or yellow peppers (or one very large), diced
1/2 red onion (or one large shallot), diced
8 scallions, white and light-to-medium green parts cut into small rounds
ground black pepper
1. Prepare the quinoa. (Check your package for directions, some quinoa needs to be rinsed. Mine was pre-rinsed and ready to cook.) Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the salt and the quinoa. Return to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low (just to a simmer). Cook for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes there is still liquid in the bottom of the pan, remove the lid to encourage evaporation.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and chipotle (for extra heat add 1 tsp or more of the minced chipotle/adobo sauce). Drizzle in the oil while whisking to create an emulsion.
3. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, scallions, red onion, and bell pepper. Pour the dressing over this and mix to combine. Season with salt and ground black pepper to your liking.