My family only recently discovered quinoa.
I’d like to think I am to blame, but I know it is only partially due to my fondness for whole grains.
According to my sister-in-law, quinoa is the new couscous. She went to a multitude of barbecues this summer and quinoa salads were always a star.
What’s not to like about the fluffy pebbles? I often use quinoa as a simple side to a stir fry or curry. Anywhere you’d typically think of rice, quinoa can substitute as a quick-cooking grain. Other times, I will use it as a base for a salad, as I find it works well with Mexican flavours.
While my family has been smitten with quinoa, they have had a hard time figuring out how to cook it properly. I typically cook it in twice the amount of salted water for 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed, and then plop the lid back on for an additional 5 minutes to let it steam.
For some reason, this doesn’t work for my mom. I will conceded that yes, her quinoa was more on the mushy/goopy side. I encouraged her to try to toast it first, to use less water or to steam it instead. For her last quinoa salad, with oranges, black-eyed peas and mint, she tried the steaming method with a fine mesh strainer inside a pot of boiling water. Now she had perfectly plump quinoa! It really is a simple way to get better texture from the quinoa and I should really try it more often. The benefit of boiling it is that I can infuse the quinoa with flavour if I use vegetable stock, herbs or other spices.
Need a delicious salad to inspire you to try quinoa? Try this Mexican-inspired lime-cilantro quinoa corn salad that I adapted from Ashley at Eat, Me, Delicious, who modified it from Rebar. It is a light, bright salad brimming with flavour.
While I don’t usually add corn to salads, the sweet corn was the perfect accent to this salad. It melds well with the the quinoa, that is speckled with a red pepper that I had grilled on the barbecue with some oil and garlic. Green onions add a nice sharpness and the chili flakes give this a bit of a zip. Cilantro is the herb of choice that pairs well with the fresh lime juice. I love the acid, but if you don’t, feel free to tame it by adding some oil. I also found that I really liked adding whole golden flax seeds to the salad. They were camouflaged amongst the quinoa, so you can’t really taste them, but they add extra nutrition – healthy omega fats and fiber. Completely optional, but if you are the adventurist, healthy type, go for it!
Lime-Cilantro Quinoa Corn Salad
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups salted water
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
1 red pepper, finely diced (I used a red pepper that I had grilled on the barbecue, marinaded in oil and garlic)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used Vietnamese coriander)
1/2 cup green onion, minced (from 4 green onions)
1/4 cup golden flax seeds, optional but good!
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (4 limes)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes, or to taste
1. Bring water to boil in a small pot, add the quinoa and salt and bring to a boil again. Cover and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes. Strain off any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
2. Steam or lightly saute corn until just tender and cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, salt and chili flakes. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh lime wedges.