Happy June to everyone! I’m kicking off this month with a delicious and wholesome southwestern quinoa salad.
I’m really excited that June is here: our first CSA shipment is next Saturday! The produce is as fresh as it gets and we get to try really interesting vegetables sometimes. I will definitely share updates on what kinds of things we’re getting throughout the weeks.
Recently I’ve been experimenting more with oil-free cooking – inspiration that has been behind these chewy coconut cookies, these tequila lime tofu tacos, and several other recent blog recipes. I ! Not to worry: I’m making sure to get plenty of healthy fat in other ways. I’m just enjoying the challenge of using foods close to their whole form, particularly fats. I thought I would share some of the results, since some things have come out pretty well!
Let’s talk salad dressing. A salad dressing has to have a certain amount of fat or thickness, otherwise it won’t stick to the salad ingredients enough. When it comes to oil-free salad dressings, there are a few options…
- Base the dressing around nut or seed butter. One example is the tahini dressing on my spring vegetable barley bowls. I’ve seen a lot of lovely almond butter-based recipes out there, and peanut butter can also work for Asian flavor profiles. This option provides plenty of healthy fats.
- Base the dressing in avocado. We can all agree that a salad topped with nature’s butter can’t be bad. Avocado-based dressings can oxidize and get kind of gross, so I prefer to only use these if we’ll be eating the whole thing that day or *maybe* the next day. Another source of healthy fat.
- Use a silken tofu- or raw cashew-based “mayonnaise”-style dressing. When tofu is the base, the dressing is essentially fat-free, so depending on what else is on your menu plan for the day, you may want to add some nuts, seeds, olives, or chopped avocado to the salad itself, in order to round out the meal.
- Use ground flaxseeds or pureed beans (used in the recipe below) to thicken the dressing. In the case of beans, you’ll want some healthy fat added to the salad. I haven’t tried a flax-based dressing yet, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it soon =]
For this southwestern quinoa salad, I chose to go the bean-based route, with a touch of tahini added. If you are looking for a meal with a higher fat content, then some chopped avocado would be an excellent addition to this particular salad – or substitute your favorite oil- or nut-based salad dressing. Bell peppers are quite juicy and delicious right now where I live, and together with the pineapple they make this salad wonderfully refreshing.
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
- 1 c . uncooked quinoa
- 1/4 of a small red onion , finely chopped
- 1/2 c . cooked corn kernels
- 1/2 c . chopped pineapple or mango
- 2 green onions , green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
- 1.5 to 2 c. cooked black beans (or 1 can, thoroughly rinsed)
For the cilantro-lime dressing:
- 1/3 c . cooked white beans
- 1 tb . tahini
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 roasted green bell pepper , peeled and seeded (see notes on how to dry-roast a bell pepper)
- 1/2 of a roasted small jalapeno , peeled and seeded (optional) (see notes)
- 1/2 c . loosely packed cilantro leaves
- (optional) 1 tsp. nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp . ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp . ground coriander
- 1 tb . 100% orange juice , plus more to taste (for sweetness/consistency)
- salt & pepper , to taste
Prepare the cilantro-lime dressing:
- Combine the white beans, tahini, and lime juice in a blender or food processor until completely smooth.
- Add the bell pepper, jalapeno if using, cilantro, nutritional yeast if using, spices, and orange juice, and blend until completely smooth.
- Add more orange juice as desired, and season to taste.
Prepare the southwestern quinoa salad:
- Cook the quinoa according to package directions; or, add 2 cups of water to it in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally and cook until fluffy and soft.
- Mix together the quinoa in a bowl with the red onion, corn, pineapple or mango, green onion, bell pepper, and black beans.
- Toss in the dressing and enjoy.
To dry-roast bell peppers and chili peppers, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and pith. Place them cut side-up on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook until very soft, 30-45 minutes depending on the size - flip them every 15 minutes. This will also work in the toaster oven! Once you remove them, while they're still warm, put them in a bowl and cover the bowl with something. The steam that forms will help you to pull the skins right off.
Here’s a shot of what the cilantro-lime white bean-based dressing looks like.
And here’s a shot of the salad tossed together with the dressing. I took it about an hour later, so the lighting is a little different =]