Friday, June 1, 2012

Spicy Quinoa + Black Lentil Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette

Summer salad time is here, and for lunch the other day, we wanted to make one that was more of a meal. There's no cheese and no bread in this -- unless you have a warmed tortilla on the side, like one of us just had to have -- but the quinoa makes it pretty filling. The trick is Avocado Vinaigrette, something that you can't really place in the finished dish that adds so much flavor. 

We're liking black lentils so much better than black beans. The flavor is very similar, but they only take 20 minutes to cook and require no pre-soak. We've been using them in place of black beans for months in huevous rancheros, burritos, and alongside fajitas. They're even good outside of Mexican cuisine. Check out our literal use of black beluga lentils here.

Trying to keep things simpler in our cooking lately has been a nice challenge -- new idea, new cookbook daydreams? Possibly! This particular recipe takes a little more in terms of time and effort, but it's worth it since it ends up tasting really fresh and healthy. 

Spicy Quinoa + Black Lentil Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette

Pickled Red Onion (do ahead; recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups prepared black lentils (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 1/2 cups prepared quinoa (follow package instructions)
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup corn (cut away from the cob or frozen)
1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Avocado Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

To prepare the lentils, bring 1 cup of broth or water to a boil in a medium pan and add 1/2 cup dry lentils. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Prepare quinoa at the same time. Toast the corn kernels in a dry pan over medium-high heat until they start to brown a little. Allow the quinoa, lentils, and corn to cool. In a large mixing bowl, toss the onion (minus the pickling liquid), lentils, quinoa, pepper, corn, chipotle, and cumin together with the avocado vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve on a bed of your favorite greens with sliced avocado, cilantro leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pickled Red Onion

1 cup diced red onion (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Add the onion, vinegar, water sugar, and salt to a food storage container. Allow mixture to sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. These are also great sliced for burgers or tacos.

Avocado Vinaigrette

1 cup cilantro leaves
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 small fresh chili pepper (like a jalapeƱo)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 small avocado

1/4 cup olive oil

Place the cilantro, garlic, lime juice, chili pepper, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and the flesh of the avocado into the work bowl of your food processor. Blend until smooth. While the processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside until ready to use.