I first developed an appreciation for quinoa in Peru. Afterall, quinoa comes from Peru, and is the grain of the Incas.
It is exceptionally high in protein for a grain, and contains all essential amino acids. It is also high in iron and fibre, therefore making my self-determined list of power foods. When we were climbing on the Inca trail, we would see little stands where they were selling chicha, a fermented (and thus alcoholic) drink made of either maize or quinoa. The porters stopped for a minute or two to drink this traditional beer, and then carry on with their heavy loads in their flip-flops. Chicha contains enough alcohol, I suppose, to make them giddy, and enough protein to fuel them over the next pass.
When I saw some fair-trade organic red quinoa (http://www.gogoquinoa.com/home.htm) at Highland Farms, I decided to create a Peruvian inspired salad for our lunch. I am calling it “Peruvian inspired” because I have chosen ingredients common to Peru – with a few little liberties. Tomatoes are thought to come from Peru, as is the pumpkin. Peru has an astounding variety of peppers, and whether or not a yellow pepper that we find on the shelves of a Canadian supermarket is Peruvian in origin – it is at least South American! Sweet potatoes also originated from South America, and black beans are found in a plethora of South American dishes. The avocado originated in Mexico, but was cultivated all the way south to central Peru long before the conquistadors arrived. As for the shallots – that’s what I mean by “liberties”. They originated in Palestine. Maple syrup? Definitely Canadian – but my preferred sweetner. The maple syrup and shallot combination was inspired by an LCBO Food and Drink recipe for grilled portobello mushrooms stuffed with quinoa and goat cheese – I played around with the other ingredients to make a much lower fat dressing.
The first time I took this salad to work in my lunch, my friend remarked that it was kind of like Tabbouli, and so I give her due credit in helping me to name this dish! I was very happy with the end result – a fibre-rich, low fat salad scented with lime and cilantro and laced with sinfully decadent chunks of avocado.
1 cup red quinoa
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp chili flakes
½ cup black beans (or more)
½ red or yellow pepper, finely diced
1 sweet potato, baked or boiled in cubes (optional)
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
½ avocado, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced lengthways
½ cup cilantro, minced
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil, if you have it)
2 finely diced shallots
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup.
Cook the quinoa in 1 ½ cups of water. You will know it’s done when the white coils unfurl from the grain. Mix in the cumin and chili flakes.
When quinoa is cooled, add the beans, vegetables and cilantro. Mix the viniagrette separately, and then add to the quinoa mixture. To serve, you can pack it in small moulds (I even use small ½ cup tuperware bowls) and then turn them upside down on a plate. Garnish with a lime wedge and some sprigs of cilantro. If you are going to make this ahead of time, it does keep well for up to three days, provided that you do not include the avocado until you are ready to eat or serve.