To be honest, I share my co-columnist Nick's sentiment about quinoa: I'm always suspicious of foods that are supposed to be healthy, or that I'm supposed to be eating. I realize it's not the most mature perspective—the stubbornness of refusing "just because" makes me feel more like a teenager than a serious eater—but with food, I'm ruthless if it doesn't taste good. I don't see the point. When and if healthy overlaps with deliciousness, I'm on board. Just not if it tastes like cardboard.
But as I think most people discover, quinoa is one of the healthy foods that is actually pretty wonderful. It's as healthy as brown rice, but cooks in a fraction of the time, providing protein in addition to carbs. This recipe from the New York Times treats the quinoa much like in a tabbouleh salad, tossing it with lime juice, cilantro, chopped tomato, red onion, and cucumber. A fresh green chile (jalapenos or serranos work well) adds a spicy kick. Fresh, light, yet filling, it's remarkable how great it tastes—and almost as good for lunch the next day as it is for dinner.
- 1 cup quinoa
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
- 2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
- 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.