Whenever my husband sees that I’m cooking quinoa, his eyes light up and he asks if I’m making “The Salad.” It’s our favorite quinoa dish, but for a while I made it only on special occasions because I couldn’t figure out how to make it without using olive oil. I was just afraid that it wouldn’t be as tasty–and who can stand to see a favorite dish diminished? But I was determined to try to lighten up the recipe so that we could enjoy this fantastic salad more often, and I’m proud to say that I’ve done it. I think that this recipe is so good that you’ll never miss the olive oil.
It’s based on a recipe by Lorna Sass called Quinoa Salpiçon, a sort of South American version of the Middle Eastern grain salad tabouli, with lots of parsley as in tabouli but using quinoa instead of bulgur wheat. I like to think of it as a blend of cultures, a little of the Old World mixed with the New, though even the “new” ingredients date back thousands of years. Quinoa was first cultivated 5000 years ago. It was a staple food of the people in the Andes Mountains in Peru and Bolivia and was considered a sacred grain of the Incas. Chickpeas were first cultivated around 7000 years ago in Turkey, but their use spread from there to western Europe, and they’ve become an important part of the diets of many cultures.
I took the original salad and added a few ingredients–the corn and chili powder to enhance its South American flavor and the chickpeas to complement its Middle Eastern roots. And, of course, I’ve made it oil-free. The result is wonderful–tiny pearls of quinoa drenched in tangy, chili-seasoned dressing, with cubes of avocado that melt in your mouth and cucumbers and chickpeas for a little bit of crunch. It’s a perfect marriage of ingredients–and cultures.
International Quinoa Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed very well
2 1/4 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 medium-large tomatoes, finely chopped
kernels of 2 ears of cooked corn (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup parsley — minced
1/3 cup fresh mint — minced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced (reserve a few slices for garnish)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (NOT lemon)
3 tablespoons vegetable broth or bean cooking liquid
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
To cook the quinoa in a pressure cooker, place it and the water, garlic, and salt in the cooker and lock the lid. Over high heat, bring to high pressure and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Fluff the quinoa and allow it to cool. (To cook it on the stove, use 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add the quinoa, cover tightly, reduce heat, and cook until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff and cool.)
Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the quinoa and mix well. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Mix well and refrigerate until chilled. Taste before serving, and add more lime juice as necessary (you want it to be tangy). Garnish with avocado slices and serve. Makes about 8 servings.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Nutrition (per serving): 239 calories, 55 calories from fat, 6.4g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 366.2mg sodium, 627.7mg potassium, 38.8g carbohydrates, 7.7g fiber, 4g sugar, 9.1g protein.