Earlier this year, I started swapping out some of our rice and pasta side dishes for quinoa in an effort to balance my protein and carb intake. For those of you who aren't familiar, quinoa is technically a seed (not a grain), so it's high in both protein and fiber. It's also a complete protein, which means it contains all the amino acids your body needs (something few plant-based proteins do).
It cooks up a lot like couscous, which we love, so it was a pretty easy transition for us. I started out cooking it as a hot side, but with grilling season upon us, I decided to try a cold salad version. After testing a few versions, I came up with this Southwest style salad that I am absolutely obsessed with. Loaded with veggies and packing some nice spice, it's delicious.
Seriously - I made batches 2 weeks in a row and ate it as a side with dinner a couple of nights AND for lunch every day - it's that good! If you're headed to a BBQ or picnic, it also makes a nice alternative to pasta salad for those who are gluten-free.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 cups water
1 can (1 1/2 cups) black beans
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (I leave the seeds in; if you don't like a lot of heat - remove them first)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
5 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread corn on a baking sheet. Roast at 425°F for 10-15 minutes, turning every few minutes, until corn is lightly toasted on both sides. Set aside to cool.
Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Let sit 5 minutes. Pour and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.
In a large bowl, combine beans, roasted corn, cilantro and both kinds of peppers.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and cumin. Stir well to dissolve salt. Pour over vegetables.
Once quinoa has cooled, add to the dressed vegetables and stir well to combine.
Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. Stays good in the fridge for several days!