Dinnertime in the Square

3 Aug

I have been experimenting with cooking new types of food recently, and I really like it!  I think Michael is just along for the ride until we figure out the best way to season it, but that’s ok with me.  About a month or so ago, we tried quinoa (I learned it’s pronounced KEEN-wah) for the first time.  I absolutely loved it.  When you cook quinoa, the outer germ surrounding the seed breaks open to form a crunchy coil while the inner grain becomes soft and traslucent.  I found this new kind of 2-in-1 texture is really interesting and actually quite liked it.

From whfoods.com:

“Quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. Quinoa is available in your local health food stores throughout the year.  Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is a recently rediscovered ancient “grain” once considered “the gold of the Incas.”  While the most popular type of quinoa is a transparent yellow color, other varieties feature colors such as orange, pink, red, purple or black.” (P.S. Who wouldn’t want beautiful pink grain-like food on their dinner plate?? )

Health Benefits

A recently rediscovered ancient “grain” native to South America, quinoa was once called “the gold of the Incas,” who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa’s amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.


Quinoa can help migraine headaches, cardiovascular health, and gallstone prevention.

So, I love cooking quinoa and figuring out different veggies, meats, proteins, spices and sauces I can add to it.  It’s also great to use the plain leftovers to create new dishes, like breakfast porridge.  Porridge??  Really?? Yes, porridge.  You just have to add a little bit of soy or nut milk to the leftover quinoa and reheat it.  Its really tasty if you add dried fruits, nuts or cinnamon too. 

This was when we made it the first time.  Quinoa, black beans, spices, and veggies with an avocado and orange salsa on the side.  All on a bed of mixed greens and homemade vinaigrette.  The recipe was from www.NoTakeOut.com, which is fabulous.  I subscribe to their emails and it’s a great way to find new recipes that don’t seem too difficult.  It gives you all the ingredients and tips you need, and even suggests a dessert and an adult beverage to serve  with the dinner…and drink while cooking! 🙂  Shhh, I didn’t tell you that!

Best of May – Quinoa & Black Beans

Best of May – Quinoa and Black Beans
Served with a Big Green Salad
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Shopping List

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 lemon
  • 10 oz. mixed salad greens, preferably organic
  • 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • One 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 cup quinoa

Pantry Items

  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried oregano
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • Hot paprika
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt



  • Wine: Try a Côtes de Provence
  • Dessert: Ginger snaps and yogurt

Game Plan:

  • When you walk in the door
    • Get out Pantry Items
    • Get out Tools
    • Assemble the ingredients
    • Open the wine and pour yourself a glass
  • Prep
    • Core, seed and dice the red bell pepper.
    • Peel and dice the onions.
    • Peel and mince 1 clove garlic.
    • Peel and mince 1 of the shallots.
    • Peel and thinly slice the second shallot.
    • Rinse and spin dry the salad. Tear it into large bite-size pieces.
    • Rinse and pat dry the cilantro. Pluck 1/3 cup leaves.
    • Zest half the orange, and mince the zest.
    • Rinse the quinoa, really well.
  • Start Cooking
    • Put 2 tbsps. oil, the bell pepper, the onions and the garlic in the large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, stirring almost constantly.
    • Add the quinoa, 1 tsp. oregano, scant 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, a generous pinch hot paprika and the orange zest. Stir well.
    • Pour in 2 cups water and add a heaping 1/4 tsp. salt. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook the quinoa for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Don’t even look at the quinoa – it needs to plump in peace, for at least 7 minutes.
    • While the quinoa is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Put 1 tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk in a large pinch of salt, the sliced shallot and 1/4 cup olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
    • You can finish up the avocado condiment now too. Peel, seed and dice the avocados. Put them in a bowl. Squeeze half a lemon through your fingers over the avocado.
    • Peel the orange right down to the fruit (remove all the white pith). Cut the orange in slices, then dice it and add to the avocados, along with the minced shallot. Toss. Season with 1/4 tsp. cumin and a generous sprinkling of salt and toss again.
    • Mince the cilantro.
    • Drain the black beans. Fold them into the quinoa along with the cilantro. Taste for seasoning.
    • Set the table now, letting the quinoa and black bean mixture cool to warm room temperature.
    • Toss the salad, thoroughly. Divide it among four plates. Top with a generous serving of the quinoa and black beans and a generous portion of the avocado condiment. Garnish each plate with a sprig of cilantro and take them to the table. Dinner is served.
    • Don’t forget the wine!

Ours turned out looking pretty darn good.  I mean…look at ours compared to the recipe picture!  Close, right??  We left out the cilantro and shallots, since neither one of us is a big fan.  That didn’t affect the end result too much.  And I believe we opted for a mighty fine Two Brothers beer for this dinner.  Yummmmm-O!

Quinoa might sound weird, or look kinda iffy…but you should give it a try!  What’s the worst that could happen!


2 Responses to “Dinnertime in the Square”

  1. Hilary August 4, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Yum!! Can’re wait to try this, looks awesome!

  2. thislittlelark August 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Yay for quinoa!! I will definitely try this recipe… always fun to experiment in the kitchen. Thank you! 🙂

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