When I first started cooking with quinoa in 2008, I was living in Beijing and needed a change from the noodles and rice that I was eating every day. Quinoa had just started to be widely covered in magazines and food blogs, but wasn't virtually impossible to find in Beijing.
I finally found organic quinoa at a supermarket for expats from a company called Green Dot Dot based in Hong Kong. Quinoa's appearance and fluffy texture reminded me of couscous, but the ease of cooking made it as convenient as rice. Having read that it was a good source for lysine, magnesium, and iron, I decided to make a prepare it for lunch one day, with some black beans, shallots, toasted cumin, and cherry tomatoes. The combination somehow stuck, and with minor tweaks, I began making it regularly for lunch.
Flash forward to 2013 in New York, and I'm still making this exact quinoa dish as a g0-to easy lunch. There's an interesting textural mix of slightly crunchy quinoa, soft black beans, and juicy cherry tomatoes, punctuated by the alluring scent of lightly cooked shallots with cumin. It's gently spiced but flavorful, light but filling, exactly what I need in the middle of the day with an afternoon of work still ahead.
The recipe works for red quinoa as well as regular quinoa. And now I can just pick up my quinoa at Trader Joe's a short subway ride away, instead of searching all over Beijing.
Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 (15 or 16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
- A small handful of chopped mint (optional)
- In a pot or rice cooker, cover the quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring.
- Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Add the cooked shallots, drained black beans, cherry tomatoes, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, black pepper, and salt. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with extra salt and pepper if you’d like. Garnish with mint (optional). The quinoa can be served warm or at room temperature.
Recipe first published November 20, 2008. Updated March 20, 2013.