I can confidently admit that we recently ate the same thing for dinner three nights in a row. With slight variations, quinoa was the main event last week. Inspired by my first attempt with cucumbers, I was transfixed with its ability to take on any flavors I used, as well as its quick cooking powers (translation: super easy dinner on the table in about 20 minutes). To put it mildly, quinoa is very cooking after five friendly. With added protein like beans or tofu, it can easily be a main course, but it's also terrific as a side dish for chicken or fish.
When I left the store, I had few ideas for how to use the ancient grain (quinoa has been harvested in South America for 6,000 years!), but thanks to the power of the internet, I was inundated with options after a quick search. Quinoa, like barley or even pasta, is a wonderful canvas for anything you can dream up. It's flavor is mild, so it adapts well to other ingredients. In the course of a week I made quinoa with cucumbers, quinoa with red peppers and spinach, and my personal favorite, quinoa with black beans, cilantro and feta.
QUINOA WITH BLACK BEANS, CILANTRO AND FETA
Quinoa is quick cooking, taking no more than 12-15 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Like rice, quinoa cooks with a 2-1 ratio of water to grain, and takes care of itself on the stove. Most recipes I've read start with 1 cup of quinoa (which makes approximately 4 cups of cooked), but I like to make a little more to ensure leftovers for both of us for lunch. Black beans and avocado make this a hearty dinner with plenty of protein and fiber.
2 cups dried quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Freshly chopped cilantro (no need to measure; chop up as much or as little as you like)
Crumbled feta cheese (as much as you'd like)
The juice of two limes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespooon of chipotle pepper sauce (optional)
Avocado for serving (optional)
Add the quinoa and four cups of water to a medium pot. Heat over high heat until boiling, then cover and reduce to a simmer until most of the water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked through, about 12 minutes.
While the quinoa cooks, warm the beans in a pan until heated through. I had some chipotles leftover from Super Bowl weekend, so I added some of the juice (about a tablespoon) to the beans for an extra kick.
In the bottom of a large bowl, add a few turns of olive oil and the lime juice. Whisk vigirously to emulsify, then season with salt and pepper. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the bowl, along with the black beans and stir gently to combine. Taste quinoa and adjust the seasonings or add more olive oil, if necessary. Stir in the cilantro and feta, and serve with blue corn chips and avocado on the side.