Given its enormous popularity over the past several years (and its ability to inspire both enthusiasm and contempt), I would be remiss if I failed to include quinoa in my Year of Whole Grains. And so, meet “Miss April,” the official grain of the month.

Technically speaking, quinoa (pronounced keenwah) shouldn’t be included at all, since it’s actually a seed, not a grain. However, I’m overlooking this technicality because quinoa looks, cooks up, and tastes just like a grain. Its recent popularity is explained in part by consumer interest in all things gluten-free and protein-rich, both of which quinoa is. It supplies high-quality protein along with a goodly dose of iron and fiber.

Quinoa comes to us originally from South America, where it grows in a variety of colors, most commonly white, red, and black. All are similar in taste and cook up relatively quickly, although white quinoa tends to be fluffier.

Which ever way you like to cook your quinoa, this salad is an excellent place to use it. The delicate quinoa is mixed with tender sweet corn, tossed with arugula, and then drizzled with a honey/lime/chive dressing. After divvying the salad into servings bowls, it’s topped with crumbled bacon and slices of ripe avocado. Although it’s not exactly a diet salad, it is packed with nourishment and enough heft and sustenance to carry a meal. It makes a terrific lunch or light supper.

For more quinoa recipes, you might try Colorful Quinoa Tabouleh or Breakfast Quinoa.  If you have a copy of my cookbook, check out the recipe for Curried Quinoa with Tangerines and Dried Cranberries. I’m also jonesing to try these Quinoa and Kale Patties from Yummy Supper.

 

Arugula Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Bacon

Key to enjoying quinoa is preparing it properly. Unless it's pre-rinsed, I routinely rinse quinoa well to slough off the bitter tasting saponins on the exterior. After tinkering with various cooking methods, I've come to prefer boiling it in a generous amount of water and then draining it, similar to how I cook pasta. If you're making this using leftover quinoa, figure about 1 1/3 cup cooked quinoa. If corn isn't in season, feel free to use frozen instead. For a vegetarian version of this salad, the bacon can be left out; it will still be plenty tasty.
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Kernels cut from 1 ear corn (about 3/4 cup corn)
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 4 generous handfuls arugula
  • 1 small avocado , sliced and scooped from the peel
  • Pinch salt

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Put the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with water. Put the quinoa into a small saucepan along with the water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously until the quinoa is just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the corn kernels to the pot and cook one more minute. Drain well. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. While the quinoa boils,cook the bacon using your preferred method until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
  3. Make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, and soy sauce until the honey dissolves completely. Whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in the chives and several cracks of black pepper. Set aside.
  4. Add the arugula to the cooked quinoa/corn and toss well. Drizzle about 2/3 of the dressing over the salad, toss again. Add more dressing if needed.
  5. Divide the salad into 4 bowls. Crumble the bacon over each salad. Lay the avocado on top. Add a small pinch of salt to the avocado. If you have any dressing remaining, you can drizzle a tiny bit on top of the avocado slices.
  6. Serve immediately