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Mealtess Day Challange: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Posted Feb 02 2010 12:00am

I want to take a break from eating brown rice and today I would like to reward myself with quinoa. But since our water pipe has been damaged and would need a few hours to be repaired, a very simple dish that requires minimal cooking and washing is required. I was planning on using the quinoa to stuff the bell peppers with some feta cheese and olives but I’ll save that recipe for another time. Looking inside my fridge, I could still create a wonderful quinoa dish made with hydrating and crunchy cucumbers, salty feta cheese, ripe tomatoes and refreshing lime juice. And our basil plant needs some trimming as well, while the red onions are asking for my attention. And I also have some black beans that I cooked this morning.

This is a type of dish where every ingredient stands out and the use of condiments and seasonings are minimal. This is what I want. I guess if you’re used to eating way too many flavorful foods, you might find this food bland. My mom loves to eat foods that have many different layers and complexity of flavors. I’m not sure if she would appreciate this. But giving yourself a break from foods that are too rich in flavor is a great way to train yourself what real food tastes like. As a cook, I think it’s important what raw food tastes like before moving on to complex flavors. Let’s take zucchini for example. Taste the zucchini in its raw form. What does it taste like? Then add salt to it and taste it again. Next, steam the zucchini and taste it again with and without the salt. Then do the other cooking methods for zucchini such as blanching, sautéing, frying, roasting and so forth.

Here at home, we stir-fry our cucumbers with a little bit of pork. Sometimes our maid would overcook it and that changes the taste of the cucumber. I do eat cucumbers but have very little appreciation for them. Surprise? Then I try eating them raw without anything else. From then on, I began to appreciate cucumbers, just the way it is. And the longer you chew your food, the more flavors are coming out of it.

Summer starts to kick in this month and spending less time in front of the stove would be a relief. Quinoa is actually a warming pseudo-grain but it becomes refreshed with all the raw ingredients added. The best part is you’re getting enough protein and lots of minerals for an ingredient that is easy to digest.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 cup quinoa (soaked in water with 2 tsp whey, buttermilk, yogurt or kefir for 6 hours)
1 ¾ cups water
1 tsp unrefined sea salt

1 large cucumber
2 large tomatoes
1 medium red onion

1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup basil leaves

2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Unrefined sea salt, to taste

200 grams feta cheese

To cook the quinoa, combine the quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to low cook for 15-20 minutes. When it is ready, small steam holes should appear on the surface. Remove from the heat, place a tea towel under the lid to absorb any steam for about 7-10 minutes. Then, transfer the quinoa into a large bowl to cool down.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your mise en place.

To prepare your mis en place, peel and diced the cucumber (remove the seeds if desired), core and diced the tomatoes and onions.

To assemble the dish, add the diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and black beans to the cooled quinoa. Remove the basil leaves from the stem and roughly chop, then add to the mixture. Cut and juice the lime over the salad. Start with one lime before adding the second one, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt to taste.

Transfer to a large platter or spoon onto individual plates. Crumble the feta cheese on top of the salad and serve.


To cook the black beans, soak 1 cup of black beans in warm water for 12-24 hours with 2 tsp of whey, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir or lemon juice. Some people use up to 2 tablespoons in cooler climates. Drain and rinse the black beans. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Remove the scum floating to the surface. Cook until the beans are tender. Use as desired.

For some people, cooking beans sounds like a lot of work to do but the more you cook with it, the easier it becomes. Rouxbe Online Cooking School has a great video on how to cook dried legumes correctly. And if you’re afraid that you won’t be able to digest beans, check my older post Improving Legume’s Digestibility.

Love and light,

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