Sometimes grain salads can be a bit too heavy for me, which is why I often turn to quinoa for my whole grain needs. Light and fluffy, it always feels fresh and summery, regardless of the weather outside. I like the citrusy punch of the limes in this dressing, along with the earthy spiced undertones, and plenty of fresh vegetables. The olives add a saline touch, which offers punctuated flavor with limited salt.
Quinoa has come into the spotlight in the US in the past ten years, despite its ancient roots in Incan land. Technically a seed, it is actually a close relative of both spinach and swiss chard, with quite an impressive nutritional profile. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids, which is rare in the plant world. High in magnesium and manganese, quinoa has been shown to ease migraine headaches, relax blood vessels and promote cardiovascular health as well as offer antioxidant protection.
One of my favorite things about quinoa is it's quick cooking time: about 15 minutes. If you set it to soak overnight, it will take a few minutes off the stove, and leave it even easier to digest and assimilate. During the winter, I love to cook quinoa with amaranth to make a breakfast porridge. It is also wonderful with loads of cumin, cilantro and corn as an alternative to Dirty Rice. Really, it is hard to go wrong.
Latin Quinoa with Lime Dressing
Serves 6 as a side
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp coconut oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch chard, cut into bite-sized pieces, dice stems
1 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup green olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup dried currants
1 1/2 limes, zest and juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Place the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of broth or water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, heat the oven to 200 and place the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. Lightly toast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
In the meantime, heat a large pan on medium heat and add the coconut oil. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and chard, including the chard stems and sauté for another minute, adding a little water if necessary, until the chard is soft. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl of quinoa.
Add the red bell pepper, green olives, cherry tomatoes, and currants. Lightly toss together.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime zest, juice, cumin, and coriander. Add the olive oil a little at a time, while whisking to emulsify. Add to the quinoa and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix in the cilantro and pumpkin seeds before serving.
Relax. Eat Well.