Out of all the delicious things you can grow in a garden, it’s beans that really capture my heart. Yes, plain old, good old beans. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, so there’s always new varieties to discover. Eating fresh snap beans throughout the summer months is a great pleasure, but I find it even more enjoyable to harvest dry beans that you can store through the whole year, enjoying the bounty of your garden through the winter months.
If you’ve ever wanted to try saving your own seeds to re-plant the following year, beans are one of the easiest crops to start with because they generally don’t cross-pollinate each other. All you have to do is pick them when they’re dry, store them in a cool dry place, and you’ll have your own supply of dry beans for eating, as well as for planting again. Growing up, my mom did this and her cupboards were filled with colorful jars of rare, heirloom beans of every kind. When it comes to growing beans, the options are endless! If you’re starting to think about what to grow in your garden next summer and are curious to try new varieties, check out Seed Savers Exchange and Adaptive Seeds’ beautiful beans.
One of our own favorite varieties is a large black bean called Black Coco. They are plump and shiny and look like beautiful jewels. They’re also meaty and flavorful so they’re my first choice when making this colorful black bean and quinoa salad. The idea for this salad was passed on to me by a friend who sprang to my rescue when I was looking for ways to use up a particularly bountiful crop one year. But you can really use any variety of black bean you like. Black Turtle beans are probably the easiest to find. But whichever bean you use, I encourage you to soak and prepare dry beans yourself instead of using the ones from a can. For one, it’s cheaper. But also, canned beans are sometimes a little mushy. When you cook them yourself, you can make sure they’re tender but still holding their shape. Last but not least, cooking dry beans from scratch helps you to avoid the harmful chemicals found in the lining of metal cans.
This salad has the fresh vibrant tastes of mango, avocado, cilantro, lime, and cumin. If you like these flavors and appreciate a healthy, hearty salad, you’re going to absolutely love this recipe! It’s protein-rich and full of vitamins and antioxidants… good for your tastebuds and good for your belly too. Bon appétit!
Black Bean Quinoa Rainbow Salad
- For the salad:
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (2/3 cup uncooked)
- 3 cups cooked black beans (1 1/2 cup uncooked)
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 1 mango, cubed
- 1 red pepper, cubed
- 1 medium-large cooked sweet potato, cubed
- 1 minced jalapeno pepper (optional)
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and chopped (about 2 cups of loose, chopped cilantro)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 2 medium garlic cloves (3 cloves for the garlic lovers!)
- For the beans: If you can, soak and prepare dry beans instead of using canned beans for this recipe. It's cheaper, and they will hold together better and be less mushy. You can use any variety of black beans. To cook the beans from scratch, simply place 1 1/2 cup of dry beans in a bowl of warm water, making sure the water covers them by at least 2 inches. Leave them to soak for about 18 to 20 hours, changing the water about halfway through. Once the beans have finished soaking, rinse them and drain them, then place in them in a medium pot filled with fresh water, covering the beans by at least 2 inches. Do not add any salt to the cooking water or it will toughen the beans as they cook. Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat down to a low gentle simmer. Depending on the size of the bean, they can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to cook. Be sure to check them often after the initial 45 minutes of cooking, piercing them with a fork or tasting them frequently to make sure they don't overcook. They are ready when they're soft and tender but not mushy or falling apart. Once they're cooked, drain them and let them cool, then place them in a large mixing bowl.
- For the quinoa: Most quinoa instructions call for a ratio of one part quinoa to two parts water but this tends to yield an overcooked, mushy quinoa which is not desirable for this type of salad. I find less water results in a more fluffy quinoa that has a nice bite to it. To get 2 cups of perfectly 'al dente' quinoa, rinse your quinoa thoroughly under running water, using a fine mesh sieve. Drain it well and then place it in a small lidded pot, along with 3/4 cup water. Bring the water to a boil on high heat, then immediately reduce to low heat and simmer gently with the lid on for about 8 more minutes, or until most but not all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is very 'al dente'. Remove from heat and keep the lid on, letting the quinoa rest for about 15 minutes to absorb the remaining water and finish cooking. It will be light and fluffy, and nicely chewy.
- To assemble: Add the cooled quinoa to the beans, as well as all the rest of the ingredients: the chopped fruits and vegetables, cilantro, salt and pepper. In a small lidded jar, mix the honey into the lime juice, until it begins to dissolve. Place the remaining salad dressing ingredients in the jar and shake it vigorously until the honey is fully dissolved and the dressing is well-mixed. Pour the dressing on top of the salad and toss everything together gently so you don't mash up the beans and avocado too much. Although you can serve it right away, letting the salad rest for about 30 minutes before serving will allow the flavors of the dressing to soak in.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.