Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spicy Quinoa with Cucumber and Tomato

My first CSA box arrived! I signed up for the "more veggies" box from Farm Fresh to You, which included beets, baby turnips, avocados, asparagus, spring onion, green garlic, cucumber, broccoli, sweet potatoes, mint, spinach, and romaine- oh my! Excited as ever, I have been planning dinner menus for the next week or so showcasing all of these wonderfully fresh, local, organic ingredients. There will be a number of usual favorites like parmesan roasted broccoli with lemon and pine nuts, roasted beets with goat cheese and pistachios (tossed with shallot, balsamic vinegar, and good olive oil), and shaved asparagus with lemon, olive oil, and pecorino. There's even talk of making pizza for the first time ever at Plate and Pour! I'm thinking shaved asparagus, green garlic, and spring onion with mozzarella and red chili flakes.

Given this overload of fresh veggies, I have been thinking of ways to incorporate protein like quinoa (keen-wah), farro, and cannellini beans into the meals for the week. I really do love quinoa, especially spicy lemon quinoa salad with pine nuts. I first came across the super grain, quinoa, while traveling around Peru a few years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of vegetarian options available at virtually every restaurant, ranging from quinoa vegetable soup, quinoa salad, causa, papa a la huancaina, and even a play on lomo saltado at the beloved Astrid y Gaston.

Inspired by the contents of my CSA box, I made a refreshing quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomato, and spring onion tossed with lime, red wine vinegar, and jalapeno and topped with parsley and avocado slices. I love that this dish is light and full of nutrients while still packing a ton of flavor.

This is the kind of dish that you can play with different variations. I think black bean, corn, and green bell pepper would be a nice combination with the lime and jalapeno vinaigrette and maybe some cumin and red chili powder.

I recommend making quinoa for dinner and having leftovers for lunch. Or you can double the quinoa amount and keep the extra undressed in the refrigerator for a day or two until needed or freeze single servings in separate ziploc bags. If I haven't convinced you to run to the market to find quinoa, I should point out that quinoa cooks significantly faster than farro or spelt, which can take 45 min to an hour to boil. So believe me when I say that this is a perfect spring/summer salad and even a light weeknight main dish full of a ton of protein and nutrients.

Spicy quinoa with cucumber and tomato (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)
1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tomato, diced
2 spring onions (or 1 small red onion), finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, sliced for garnish

1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels.

Combine the tomatoes, chiles, parsley, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and parsley. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and parsley.


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I'm a carnivore trying to reduce the amount of meat my family consumes and I sense there will be some great ideas here. This is my first visit to your site and I've spent some time browsing through your earlier entries. I'm so glad I did that. You've created a lovely spot for your readers to visit and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  2. Nice! I love the addition of jalapeno for the spicy kick!


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